Summary: Do women have a role to play in congregational oversight? What does the Word say?
“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 childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”
Gender battles are an integral part of the social landscape today. Beginning early in the last century and continuing to this day, a crescendo of strident voices sought to convince women that they were oppressed. Because they were said to be oppressed, they were encouraged to unite together with their sisters to cast off the bondage of patriarchal slavery. Bra burning during the sixties has given way to political action groups today. The pendulum appears to be swinging in the opposite direction today, however. The current hot, political trend is for men to organise into political groups, their express intention being the assertion of masculine rights in contrast to feminine rights.
Some have suggested that among the churches, there are three genders—male, female and clergy. Tragically, that assertion may be accurate. Like contemporary politics, the modern pulpit appears to be overly sensitive to women’s issues, rather than addressing the human condition. Pastors are trained to be cautious rather than bold, and rather than equipping parishioners to confront the great issues facing them by a bold pursuit of the truth, churches are more concerned with training adherents to bury their heads in the bottom of a tissue box. In the process of empowering women, the modern pulpit has destroyed male leadership in the home. Having done this, we are surprised that men now attend church disguised as empty pews.
It is tragic enough when gender battles are ongoing in society—ultimately they affect each of us. If gender fights in society have such tragic consequences, consider what must happen when these same issues invade the Body of Christ. Women within the evangelical community vociferously voice the complaint that they are excluded from power within the churches. They insist they will assume a place even as overseers in the Body of Christ. In exercising this drive for power it is necessary to dismiss the history of the churches; it has become necessary to explain away the writings of the Apostles and even the words of Jesus. Assumed rights and feelings have replaced human responsibility and divine revelation. Even Bibles are rewritten to ensure that masculine pronouns are removed so as not to offend women. Men respond by ignoring the churches while forming their own religious events consisting of sporting events, shared experiences in dangerous situations and the camaraderie of the bar.
What cannot be explained away is the fact that in the churches, Christ and His Word must prevail, leading us to peace. Instead of leading society, the churches of this day are more often led by society. Instead of being the moral conscience for society, the churches of this day exalt the most strident voices as conscience for the Body of Christ. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be. To fail to heed the instruction of the Word is to ensure that we shall not long continue as a force against the darkness of this world. Listen, then, to the Word of God that together we may learn what God has to say about gender and leadership in His church.
THE PRINCIPLE — “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” The verse before us makes no reference to ability, but rather it speaks of the attitude which should be exhibited among women of God. The passage says nothing concerning the worth or merit of either gender. Neither does this statement infer that women are inferior in intellect, in spiritual perspicuity or in capability. We have already established that before God both male and female have now received the full rights of sons. Each alike has already received divine adoption permitting access to the Father and ensuring each a place in God’s family. Women are not proscribed either from praying or from testifying in the services of the church, though they are taught to demonstrate propriety and a submissive spirit—exhibited first toward their own husbands.
It would be a dreadful error for anyone to infer from these words that women have no ministry within a church. We have already demonstrated that women have received a vital ministry which is to a tragic extent neglected or ignored in this day. Older women are responsible to teach younger women in the church—a ministry which no conscientious pastor dare undertake without exposure to serious consequence. Women are to teach their own children and they are encouraged to teach other children. Women are encouraged to glorify God through sharing in the teaching of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” [COLOSSIANS 3:16]. Among the early churches, women even baptised other women—a practise that has fallen into disuse in this day. In society, women are encouraged to witness to the grace of God, endeavouring to turn family, friends and neighbours to faith in the Risen Lord.