(This was a post I wrote in response to several other students remarks on women in ministry)
I would like to say that I have had to fight some battles regarding what God has and is calling me to do. In my pursuit of education I have fought this fight even more. I am presenting here today a response that I wrote to a "conversation" among several indviduals regarding women. I do not present it to cause fight or debate. I really want you to look at the ending of my post to see if we can challenge ourselves to carry out what I write:
Dear (name removed),
Before I answer your question, I want to go back to the scripture that is often used to show why women cannot be preachers (or to teach or be part of the internal workings of the church). 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 where it states “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…” Many commentators have long considered these verses to be culturally embedded statements at odds with Paul’s own practice and Galatians 3.
Now I have heard some still say, they do not believe this scripture is addressing the culture of the time but is speaking to all women today as well as yesterday that women should not be permitted to preach or teach. Then the question is, how do you reconcile Paul’s speaking earlier in this same book? 1 Corinthians 11 (especially 5 and 13) talks about women giving prophesy. It does not forbid the act of speaking but of her head being uncovered. Later interpretations made this to mean women being subordinated to men. The Greek interpretation of the word “speak” (laleo) in Corinthians is easily rendered “babble” and the word “silence” (siagao) bears connotations of desisting from chatter. This interpretation of the words would make the understanding of some commentators that state Paul was not stopping the women from speaking, but from the babbling and chatter that was taking place. Because to believe otherwise how do you reconcile women being able to prophecy but not able to speak?
Furthermore, women have been a part of the church and of God’s plan always. Early church leaders were itinerant missionaries or heads of household assemblies. The Great Commission was given without gender distinction, for if it were Jesus’ intent that women keep quiet he could have easily explained that when giving the commission. Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection and the Spirit descended equally upon men and women at Pentecost. Romans 16 for example, cites numerous examples of women in positions of leadership – Phoebe the deacon/minister, Priscilla and Aguila, co-workers with Paul, and perhaps Junia as an apostle.
Mayn contemporary scholars – Schussler, Fiorenza, Torjesen, and Kroeger, among others, have exhaustively studied this early inclusion of women in leadership. Some of the reasons for why women should be included in the ordination process from a theological issue include a theology that centers around the universal and eschatological proclamations of Galatians 3:28 that in Christ, “there is neither…male nor female.” And Joel 2:28. And also on the emphasis of the priesthood of all believers.
The roots of the church lie in early Israel, where women occupied a high position and had a strong influence both in the home and in the believing community. The leadership of Miriam (Exod. 15:20-21) is viewed as a special gift to Israel (Mic. 6:4). Deborah served as judge, general, and prophetess (Judge 4-5). Hulda the prophetess declared an old scroll to be indeed the Word of God and called the nation to a repentance that resulted in a great revival (2 Kings 22:8-20, 2 Chronicles 34:14-28). “Wise Women” played a considerable role in the moral and political life of Israel (2 Sam. 14:1-20; 20:14-22; Prov. 14:1). Female officials served in both the tabernacle and the temple (Exod. 38:8, 1 Chron. 25:5-6; Ezra 2:65; Neh. 7:67; 10:39; Ps 68:24-25; Luke 2:36-37). Female prophets functioned through the history of Israel (Exod. 15:20; Neh. 6:14; Isa. 8:3; Ezek. 13:17-23; Luke 2:36-37).
The first women in the church were the group of female followers who were attached to Jesus and traveled with him (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:1-3). These are just of the examples of women and their importance and inclusion in the work of the people of God. Some would respond to this list by stating while Deborah for example is mentioned, she is the only one in a total of 13 judges. So the way women are explained away is because only a few were mentioned. But that is unfair. How many prophets and prophetess, or leaders and teachers were not listed? That we do not know so we have no true way of knowing how many more women or men for that matter were doing the things of God. Even if only a few women were mentioned, does that negate the fact that women were important to God’s plan? I do not believe this stand can be taken.
We often speak that God is the same today, yesterday and forever more. If women were allowed to have leadership roles in his people, the Israelites, why would he exclude them from inclusion in the body of believers when he in fact opened up the opportunity to more, not less?
Some writers state to take literally that women are not to speak would mean that women could not teach (even to the youth), sing, participate in the worship service in any capacity or even get saved because they could not give any confession. The point is this; there are those that stand on both sides of this issued. Both sides present scripture that they believe supports their position. I would only like to state this additional point, if any be pastors among you, how do you handle the woman that comes to you and states she has a certain gift. Will you tell her that she is mistaken, that God surely would not give her the gift of teaching especially if he has no intention of her using it to build up the body? Or what if she states she has been given the gift of prophecy, will you tell her she cannot proclaim the things of God?
I find it difficult to believe that God’s word states clearly that the Holy Spirit gives gifts as he desires, with the distinction that certain gifts are only for men (since women will not be able to utilize those gifts). I read someone’s post that stated women believing they are called to preach have an attitude of arrogance. Unless you have spoken to every woman that has accepted her call to preach, you really have to be careful making such a statement. I had no idea and no desire to preach. I was happy teaching the teens and that was where I thought I would continue to be, it was God that decided otherwise. We have to be careful to make judgments such as this. I also read someone stated that it is a “confusion” on the part of the women to go based on emotions that they are called. That also is in unfair stand. Unless you have had the opportunity to speak to every woman that has accepted her call, you cannot state she made some “emotional” decision. To assume that a woman feels a calling totally based on emotions states a belief that a woman cannot make a decision through prayer and going before the Lord. How would a man feel if someone said they based their decision to preach based on emotion or arrogance? This would not be acceptable, and therefore I do not believe it is acceptable to make that generalization against women.
The point I really am trying to make is this; I understand where both sides stand (those that believe women can preach and those that do not). I respect what each side believes as they have felt convicted. As a female preacher and one that is willing to accept the call to be a pastor if God so says it, you then know my stand. I often ask God the question, why do we believe so many different things as believers? I always come away with this same answer, it is less about what we believe differently and more about how do we get along before the world? How do we handle these differences? Do we let them pull us apart or do we rise to the level God has called us to, to love one another? I choose today and everyday to rise to the level of love. I choose to love those that do not understand nor accept my calling. I choose to love those that make remarks that are uncalled for because in doing so, I am choosing to show Christ. I choose to say to those among you that do not believe I am to preach, I love you, I pray for you and I hope that God would bless you as you seek to do his will. For when it is all said and done, I will not stand before any of you. I will stand one day before my Lord. And when I stand before him, it is my greatest desire that he finds me having been faithful to what he called me to do.
One servants humble submission.