Saturday, July 14, 2007

Women preachers

My buddy Mike recently published a rant in response to a Christian Standard interview of Eleanor Daniel, the brotherhood "Dean of Christian Education." Apparently Eleanor has some "out of step" thoughts about the role of women in the church.

Consequently, I thought I would take a few moments to elucidate my thoughts on the role of women in the church. In a sentence: "I don't have a problem with a women preaching; I do have a problem with a woman preacher."

What does that mean? For too long we've said, "it's okay for a woman to speak to the assembled on Sunday morning provided she stands on the floor and not on the stage; so long as she stands behind a music stand or lectern and not a pulpit; and oh by the way, everyone would feel much better about it if she held the slide projector remote control in her hand at the same time."

This, to me, seems inconsistent.

There are times when a word of exhortation from one of the fairer sex is appropriate. I wonder, for example, why I ought to stand before women on mother's day and tell them how to be better mothers. Wouldn't a word from an experienced well respected woman be more appropriate? Or when I preach something like, "What Every Wife Wished their Husband Knew About Women," doesn't it seem more genuine coming from a female? In situations such as these, I have no problem with a woman who, in submission to the church elders and under their express authority to do so, stands before the congregation and delivers a word of exhortation.

I do, however, take issue with a woman preacher. In the sense that a preacher is an elder "whose work is preaching and teaching," a woman cannot meet the requirements of scripture that an elder is a male.

The issue is one of authority, is it not? In the first instance, a woman preaching under the submission of her husband and the elders is, in fact, submitting to the authority of the elders. In the second instance, despite what us preachers might want to say about being in submission to our elders, we nevertheless yield a considerable amount of authority in the church, particularly in congregations that are considered "staff led" churches.

This is my position. It is one that I hold loosely, and am open to changing. It places me to the left of some of my brothers and to the right of others. That puts me in the middle, I guess. I wonder, is it lonely here, or are others nearby?


Soren said...

I think I understand your position. I do agree with you about the inconsistency of splitting hairs over whether she uses a pulpit, lectern, video projector and/or which side of the Atlantic she preaches on. I believe that if it’s forbidden by Scripture, then geography is irrelevant.

I have heard the “it’s okay if the elders allow it” argument before. My understanding is that this is not something for which the elders can “grant permission.” God has already spoken through the Holy Spirit via the Apostle Paul: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12). There are two prohibitions, not just one. So even if the authority issue is skirted (pun intended), you still have to deal with the “I do not allow woman to teach” portion of the text.

David H. Willis said...

My position is essentially that a woman can do pretty much anything but teach or have authority over men in the body. I'd let them read Scripture, pray, , encourage, testify, sing, distibute communion, take up offerings, etc. I'd prohibit Christian women teaching Chrisitan men doctrine and/or serving as elders. Too some I'd seem compromiser...too others I'd be a misogynist.

Soren said...

David Willis the compromiser? Perish the thought!

Frank Weller said...


But women do teach men. I learn much from my wife, and I'm guessing you do, too.

When we sing a Fanny Crosby hymn, I'm guessing we all learn doctrine. When the missionary speaker tells us what God is doing in her work, we find our faith affirmed and our mind informed.

The only way for us to not learn from the woman God has placed among us is for them to remain completely silent, and even then I'm guessing we would learn something by their piety and submissive spirit.

The issue has to be one of authority. I wish I had a better grasp of the Greek here so I could understand this passage more completely.

I'm going to audit Greek this fall at GLCC, so perhaps I'll get more in line with you and brother Willis . . .

Soren said...

Auditing Greek? I applaud your desire to do that brother!

Anonymous said...

There was a time (to my dismay) when we would have tousled over this. Admittedly due to some of my growing years, Pharisaical attitudes, church traditions and some things that have proven to be no more than red neck ramblings.
I'm gonna stand in the middle of the road with you on this one. If a woman has something to teach me then I need to be smart enough to listen. Daily my wife, St. Beth, teaches me some tidbit of knowledge or points out something that I need to be working on. Forbid it that I were foolish enough or so prideful to think that I had no reason to value her teachings simply due to the fact that I posess a penis.
There have been so many Godly women that have taught men lessons throughout history and done so in only the nurturing, patient and loving way that a only a woman can do.
Check out the book of Ruth. See how God regarded her. Not to mention her connection in the lineage of Jesus the Christ. Pretty hard to convince me that God does not regard women as important within the kingdom. I will suggest that church tradition has taken liberties with men and womens roles in the church.
I cannot buy into the idea of women as elders nor serving in the role (even though it seems vague) as preachers. Because a woman speaks does not put her in authority over me any more than a man speaking. If they are teaching or prophesying to the body then we can be intelligent enough to listen. Some times the lesson is heard the best when it is soft spoken.
(I really was going to work in the "V" work too. Just because I wanted to. Restraint won out.)
I think you are on to something here and need to develop it more!
Auditing Greek; I want that!