Monday, December 5, 2011

Short Essay on the Role of Women in the Church

Short Essay on the Role of Women in the Church
            The matriarchs and coheirs of the human race have long been subdued from reaching their full potential in society and within the church. However, there are questions that must be examined in order to determine the proper role of women in the church and what subsequent service they might shoulder.
            An elder, presbyteroi, had a prominent function in the New Testament Church. They are associated with the leader of the Jerusalem church, James (Acts 11:30), they were to conduct the oversight of the church as shepherds (Acts 20:28) and as the apostles and prophets ministry began to fade they were responsible to teach and preach at a local level.[1] A deacon, diakoneō, describes a servant and fits their description found in Scripture. These servants were required to be husband of one wife, manage his children well, have excellent standing in Christ, sincere, worthy of respect, not a drunkard, not pursuing material wealth dishonestly, and they must undergo scrutiny to verify their trustworthiness (1 Tim. 3:8-13).
            Women possessed the role of deacon in the church (Phoebe, Rom 16:1). Along with Phoebe other women such as Priscilla served with Paul (Acts 18:18). In the Old Testament Deborah held the role of prophetess in Israel (Judg. 4:4) during the time of the Judges. Galatians 3:28 points to the standing of men and women in Christ, which reflected the utmost of equality in spirit and glanced back on the original creation standard prior to the fall. Though passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 seem to support the silencing and limiting of women in church function this conclusion misses the mark in light of the cultural context. Though women are mentioned solely here it may have been to address the state of affairs in the church at Corinth and was not intended to be a sweeping reform.[2]
            Though women can certainly perform the duties of officers in the church, detractors are still plenty thus their arguments need addressing. Chiefly among the passages lobbied against women serving in churches is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. [3] Though women appear to be charged with the fall of man and are under restrictions here clarity should be given on the type of restrictions that are not representative. First, women are free to teach their children (Prov. 6:20). Second, women should still be schoolteachers and historically this is the case. Third, due to the overwhelming blessing from above on Sunday school programs it is hard to imagine a restriction on women here. Lastly, the same goes as above in reference to women in the mission field.[4] Ephesians 5:22-33 appears to demand women as the submissive partner to their husbands. However to stop there does not do justice to the passage. When viewed in more depth this passage actually levels more responsibility on man as the reflection of Christ’s love for his wife. As Paul points to in Galatians 3:28, “both male and female” were created equally in Christ and thus any restrictions on women should also reflect on their equal gender, men.
            Though some would argue that there are restrictions on women for service in the church no such arguments should be made against workplace limitations. The fall of man has been applied to naivety of women, however this view leads to the idea of the subjugation of the female gender. As with any interpretation that strays from the creation ideal it should be resisted as any other evil since the fall.[5] Women are the bearers of life and the conduit to which God brought about the birth of our Lord (Lk. 1:31-32), how could we restrict their profession?
            Women have held the title of prophetess, deaconess and spiritual leader in Scripture. Evident from examination, God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34); therefore we should shed the ways of the dark ages and embrace the spiritual gifts of God no matter their source in gender. God has endowed mankind, inclusive of both sexes, with certain faculties and as such we are equipped for a number of tasks in the church. Surely if a particular woman enjoys church government she should be elected or disqualified based on her qualifications, not her sex, likewise for man. As with King David, God told Samuel to look not on the outside but inside to his heart to see the character of the man (1 Sam. 16:7), this should be the practice of every church.
            Male and female were created equally in the image of God and should perform duties worthy of that resemblance. Though different in emotions and physical characteristics if a woman is a capable candidate for a spiritual office, the church would do well to accept her contributions. God promised to pour out His spirit on both men and women in the last days (Joel 2:29), who are we to silence that movement?

[1]             R.S Wallace, “Elder.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 369.

[2]             R. Nicole, “Woman, Biblical Concept of.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1284.

[3]             Ibid, 1284.
[4]             Ibid, 1285.
[5]             N. Hoggard-Creegan, “Women, Ordination of.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1288.

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