A gifted young woman is hired as a minister at a church within the fellowship of churches of Christ, and from some of the reactions to the event, you’d think that the Apocalypse had somehow been triggered.
It’s not like this has never happened before, for one thing, and for another … this fellowship has long promoted a concept called congregational autonomy. Which simply means that one church has no business sticking its nose in the business of another.
With all due respect to the classic interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 – which has been that of virtually all churches for more than a thousand years – I think there are too many other scriptures which refute Paul’s instructions there as normative throughout all time: a woman evangelist of Sychar, Samaria in John’s gospel; the women evangelists of the resurrection at the close of Luke’s; the partnership of Prisca with Aquila in instructing Apollos more perfectly regarding baptism … as well as others I’m sure we’ve all encountered.
The circumstances at Corinth were clear: what women were not to do was interrupt with questions, adding to the chaos that already existed among the gathered saints in their one-upsmanship in place of worship and edification. Can any other picture be drawn from scripture of what was happening there?
Nor can there be any question what was taking place in Ephesus where Timothy served: men were praying yet quarreling in anger; women were dressing to attract attention to themselves rather than to bring God glory. They had not yet learned how to behave as believers and were therefore not qualified to teach. As to Paul’s reminder of the order in creation, would it not be because women were attempting to exert authority over men – rather than share in it – that he tells them they must not? It’s a reminder that man and woman were created to complement and fill each other’s needs and serve side by side; it was a prophecy of God after they had sinned that this equality of purpose would no longer take place. Surely God’s desire to restore His relationship to His children would be to the original state of creation, not after sin and the fall from His grace.
We cannot conflate these two separate circumstances and places as a single scripture, nor interpret them as if they mean something now that they did not mean to those originally addressed.
If women were instructed to prophesy with their heads covered by authority in 1 Corinthians 11, then Paul cannot be forbidding their ministry entirely a scant three chapters later. That simply does not make sense.
I think we have to face the possibility that we – and generations before us – may have been wrong about our interpretation of these scriptures as normative for all time.
And that Jesus wants, desires and calls all people everywhere not only to repent and believe but also to share His gospel in whatever setting they are in, no matter what genders are present, or whether the walls of a church building surround them.
My late wife Angi never preached in a pulpit. But I’d challenge anyone to read her keynote address a year ago February at an Azusa-Pacific University conference and prove to me from scripture that no man could possibly be blessed by hearing that message by virtue of the fact that he was sitting in a church building hearing it live when it was delivered.
Then you can explain to me why God gives such gifts to both men and women, but only wants half of them to use those gifts to His glory if both are present and worshiping together.
Tell me it’s because Eve sinned first, before Adam did. And that’s why God placed a curse on all His children until the end of time.
So therefore women aren’t allowed to preach.
God never cursed Eve nor Adam nor us. He told them the consequences of their actions. He told them it would no longer be like it was in Eden’s paradise. It was no curse to affect all people for all time, but a prophecy that sin had thwarted His wishes for us all, and yet that He would restore those intentions and reconcile His children to Himself.
Paul wouldn’t have expected his readers to stop at half the story of the fall – forgetting entirely the relationship people once had with God in the garden – and neither should we.
That reconciliation and restoration of relationship took place at the cross. We live and must act in that grace, living that reconciliation extended to ALL people. So we are ALL commissioned by the Great Commission. The Spirit is poured out on ALL, both men and women. We are ALL one in Christ Jesus; no male nor female.
Either those things are true ALL the time.
Or they are not true at all.