Feminism And The Church

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A woman called a specialty store and asked the manager if he could get her one dozen mice and three dozen cockroaches. The manager said, the mice wouldn’t be a problem, but that it would take a little while to get the roaches. Then he said, “I think I know why you might want the mice, but why would you want three dozen cockroaches?” The woman replied, “Well, you see, my husband is a United Methodist minister. This is the time of year for our annual conference when Methodist preachers move. We’re moving and our District Superintendent told us we had to leave the parsonage the way we found it.”

The role of women in the Church has for a long time been a source of debate.
I remember the small rural church that I pastored as a student in seminary.
The congregation did not have women as Elders and Diaconate. The odd thing that I noticed was that the men where open to the idea but not the women. The C.W.F. would meet on the same Sunday as the Church Board. The Board met upstairs and the ladies met downstairs. On a Sunday when a serious issue was before the Board, “should the church allow the youth to put a pool table in the fellowship hall?” I overheard one wife tell her husband how he was to vote!

United Methodist Bishop Leontine Kelly was serving a local church early in her ministry when she met an older gentleman who said he had heard good things about her pastoral ministry. But, he had one problem. “The Apostle Paul said you should be silent in the church!” Bishop Kelly responded, “Sir, Paul didn’t call me to ministry. Christ did!”

The Church has always wrestled with the issue of the role of the woman in the life of the Church. We feel that we get mixed signals about this issue from Paul. 1 Tim 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 1 Tim 2:9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes….

The study of women in scripture is a classic example of why culture (or society) cannot be divorced from the interpretation of scripture. The role of the woman in society was to bear and care for children. She was to be in subjection to the men in her life, her father and husband. She was a little more than a piece of property. To the untrained eye, scripture appears to perpetuate this mentality.

Why does Paul write that a woman is to be in authority under a man and why does he tell her to remain silent in Church? Cultural issues! The woman who was without a vale, the woman who was loud and open was the prostitute on the city streets.
If I came into this sanctuary wearing black leather and a tight fit, you would consider it wrong. Paul’s concern was that those inside the church not misunderstand or wrongly interpret what was going on inside the Church.

In the Book of Romans (16:1) Paul writes, I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. Phoebe is a woman, yet Paul uses her gifts for the Church. Phoebe is even intrusted with this letter to the Church at Rome.

When Paul writes in his letters about Priscilla and Aquila, he always puts Priscilla (this husband and wife team) before Aquila. Sometimes it is the language itself that gives us difficulty. The Hebrew and Greek languages which the Bible are written in are like most languages in that they are filled with masculine terms. We want to understand God in terms of Father, because that is the way that God is portrayed in scripture. We understand God in those terms because we can only understand God in human concepts. God is sexless. To be created in the image of God has nothing to do with gender.

What does all of this mean? In the Church, in the Body of Christ, there is to be no gender consideration! You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. “Sons of God” is the limitation of the language not the exclusiveness of God. The passage would have been just as well written had it said, “You are all sons and daughters of God….” There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Should women be treated any less outside the Church? No!

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