Monday, August 10, 2009

On Women Teaching And Having Authority Over Men IN Christ's Church

Here is a copy of the letter I sent the Board of Elders of the Church I had been attending. I want to make it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that Women are not second rate Christians and they, in my experience, seem equally able to lead people. The issue is not about ability, but about being set aside for God's work in His Church.

Here's the letter. I've edited out the names of the Church and people involved.

Dear Pastor,

Please accept this letter to the Board of Elders and present it to them for theirs and your consideration.

Pastor, I’m thankful that you have been more than willing to discuss the topic at hand with me. I especially appreciate that you have continued to be a mentor even though we have disagreement. I value you as a brother in Christ and a shepherd and I want to remind you and the Elders of my enduring love and respect. I’m thankful that you and the Elders will prayerfully and studiously consider what I offer here with diligence and integrity. As we discussed in person, if I thought otherwise I would simply separate from fellowship. I truly hope than you and the Elders will not take my attempt to be clear and complete as being cold or harsh. I have given this writing to a wise brother in Christ and have heeded his advice as closely as I could with regard to editing this work for tone. The written word has the benefit of lasting through study and consideration but it surely lacks the ability to react to the reader. I hope that you and the Elders will trust my intentions in like manner as I trust yours.

I am writing to you with regard to women teaching and having authority over men in Christ’s Church and my recent experience of this at our church. I believe the Scriptures are clear that such is prohibited in the Church. There are many possible facets to discussion that can ensue from this topic. Therefore I wish to be straight forward and clear. It is not my understanding that women are prohibited or even limited in Ministry any more than men are. I submit that if we minister, we must minister in the Spirit and the Spirit has revealed in the Scriptures how we can recognize His working. I also submit what I consider obvious for the sake of clarity, whatever is outside of and/or in violation of what the Spirit has revealed in Scripture is not of His working.

While trying to be brief I wish to make it clear to you that I do not believe you men are any more subject to me than any other brother in Christ is. I bring no accusation in this letter. I am writing this to you men because the Scriptures tell me that an Elder is able to teach and correct according to the Scriptures. The seriousness of this matter is that of the Headship of Christ over His Church. I do not regard this as a side issue, or a “foolish and ignorant dispute” and I do not intend strife. This issue speaks to the very image of Christ’s relationship to the Church and is therefore worthy of full consideration. As men who wish to be doing God’s work we must rightly divide the Word of Truth. So, please consider this writing as my part of our collaboration in maintaining our church’s biblical unity.

Brothers with all of this said, if the course of our church is to be set in a direction that is not decided and driven by the Word of Truth then my family will not be able to continue our fellowship here. I’m trusting that won’t be the case and in my limited ability to see the possible outcomes of our discussion I am hopeful of one of these following two happening. That you men will be able to teach and correct me using the Scriptures as your full, final and only authority or that you will repent and change the course that our church is currently on. I believe either, if done in accordance to the Word of Truth would be God honoring and edifying to the assembly of Christians at our church.

Through discussion with our Pastor I have learned he does not consider a woman teaching or preaching as having authority over those who are being taught or preached to. He made it clear that he puts a distinction between governing and teaching. I do not make this distinction myself, as I do not see how someone can teach or preach without authority. However, such disagreement has limited impact on our discussion and while important does not need to be our focus at this time.

Brethren there are a number of websites I could have just offered for your review. However, in accordance with my conscience and in a sincere desire to avoid even the appearance of “idle babbling” I have prepared this small argument from the Scriptures themselves.

The Apostle Paul wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit;

1 Tim 1:18-20

18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

1 Tim 2:8-13

8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

This is not the only “therefore” that Paul builds on the charge he committed to Timothy, but it is surely one of the things that are part of that charge. We could get side tracked with what “silence” means however if we let only the Scriptures give us the context then we can be sure that this is with regard to teaching and learning. It does not mean a woman is to be perfectly silent in the Church. However if it did mean this then Timothy (and all Elders even today) would be just as subject to follow it.

Paul’s inspired reasoning for this prohibition has nothing to do with society, culture, education, or even any particular assembly of believers. We are told that Adam was formed first. This tells us that Paul’s instruction is based on God’s perfect order of Creation which He called “good good” Gen 1:31 which we often translate “very good.” The weight of the word “good” is increased as it is repeated in Hebrew. The classic well known example of this concept is that God is described as “holy holy holy.”

Paul is absolutely clear that sin entered the world through Adam, though the woman was deceived. It was Adam’s responsibility. Rom 5. He was created first and he was given rule and authority. However in Gen 3 we read how Adam tried to hand this responsibility to Eve and even God. He says to God “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” We say the very same thing when we disobey the Scriptures and say that God has called a woman to teach men. We give up the authority and the responsibility that God has placed on us and give it to the woman. We wrongly blame God and the woman saying she was gifted for this purpose though she was not.

This is how God dealt with Adam’s sin;

Gen 3:17-20

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“ Cursed
is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat
of it
All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you
And to dust you shall return.”
20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

Please notice two things; We live in a cursed universe not only because Adam ate of the tree but also because he surrendered his authority to the woman. After being corrected Adam went on to actually exercise his authority over her to the point that he even was the one who named her Eve.

Please carefully consider the conversation that God had with the woman before this.

Gen 1:13-14 a

13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent:…

Immediately after this God cursed the “great serpent of old” and went on to deal with the man. Notice that God did not deal with the woman as though she was responsible for this thing. He had not given her the authority. He had given the man it though and so this whole thing was his responsibility. This is the order that our immutable God created and operates within.

Some have said that women can teach and some others even say have authority over a man in Christ’s Church because “in Christ there is neither male nor female.” The fact is that the passage being quoted is about salvation.

Gen 3:26-29

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Clearly there is a volume of writing in the NT which indicates that people are still male and female (along with the associated implications) even after they are baptized into Christ. Of particular interest to our discussion is Paul’s instruction that the Christian Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the Church. I could quote these passages but because of the volume they would inflate this letter and make it even harder for you to read. I trust you are each familiar with Paul’s teaching in this regard. Eph 5:22-32 may be helpful.

At issue during my discussion with Pastor Frank was if God uses men and women in the same fashion through giftings.

Rom 12:3-8

3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

This passage makes it clear that while we are “one body” we are each individual “members” of that body and we do not all have the same function.

Our Pastor and I discussed the symbol of submission or head covering when a woman prays and prophecies. He had expressed that he understood his covering as Pastor covered the woman who taught at at our church.

1 Cor 11:1-16

1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

To apply the prophecy here as teaching is to take it out of the context that Paul uses it in. He himself asks the question in vs 13 that tells us this is about prayer not teaching. Even if this were to mean teaching Scripture tells us that the older women are to be teachers of the younger women.

Titus 2:1-6

1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

1 Cor 11:5 does not mute the rest of NT Scripture and so give a woman right to teach a man by saying that if she prays or prophecies that she ought to have a symbol of submission visible to the angels. Vs 10 tells us they are the reason she should be covered. We have peace with God now through the Peace Offering of Christ. We can approach the Throne by the Blood of Christ. The angels desire to look in at this salvation we have. 1 Peter 1:10-12 When we approach the Throne we ought to do so in such a way that respects the angels’ desire to look at how we have this access. We do so honoring the Headship of Christ our Bridegroom. Paul makes it clear that what the symbol is isn’t important, but that the angles can see that both the man and the woman who approaches God does so in proper subjection and humility though we can enter in “boldly” because of the Blood. Heb 10.

Brethren, if what I have prepared here is faithful then the Scriptures prohibit our godly women from teaching and/or having authority over our godly men. This prohibition is in accordance with God’s perfect established order. We as men desiring to be God’s workmen and to properly honor Him alone must therefore fulfill our role and allow women to fulfill theirs. The issue is not equality, it is service in the Spirit. Both men and women are recognized as gifted in accordance with the Scriptures and both are given to serve in Christ’s Church in their own functions. Anything other than that would be outside of the working of the Spirit and would be in our own effort. It is our failing and our responsibility when this happens. So it is my responsibility to prepare this letter for you.

I realize this letter has stretched on, but it as short as I could make it. Thank you for your consideration and for what I expect will be a diligently prepared response. I am thankful to God for providing godly men to serve in our assembly. My Wife and I will continue to pray for each of you and your families.

In love, and in Christ,


Kevl said...

I would love to get some input from those reading on this tough subject.

I met with the Pastor and the Elder who brought this group into the church for the three services. Unfortunately I found it hard to keep my composure when the Elder told me that discussing the Scriptures with people seemed "legalistic" to him.

I hope the Board of Elders will respond. They told me not to expect anything before September.


Anonymous said...

Your letter is respectful and I hope that elders will find it this way. Btw. I agree with you on this topic.

Jan said...

You did the right thing, Kev. I can see from what they had said that they are clearly rationalizing what they are doing. It is the hugh and cry of the compromising that they cry "wrangling over words" and "legalism" when they want to reinterpret a clear Biblical teaching (we all do this to some degree at some point. Sin nature.) But you are in the right here. They ignore God's mandates on this to their own peril. Unfortunately, what they are failing to do is recognize the devil in their reasoning. He is using the same tactics with them that he used in the garden. For all the reasons you sited it is reprehensible for women to hold authority over men as you described.

I hope along with you that they will see their error and repent. However, that is going to be very hard for them to do, especially in our politically correct society.


GlennW said...

Hi Kevl,

I read your letter with great interest and agree with what you wrote. I know that you have researched this more than I have and probably are aware of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW). However, just in case you missed it, the CBMW has some great resources that you may find of use.

As soon as you look at the author list you will see that the CBMW is ran by those who hold to a Calvinistic theology. While I disagree with them on soteriology I will say that they have done good work in many areas.

I hope this is of use.

Glenn W.