How Would You Answer My Friend?

A pastor friend e-mailed me with this question yesterday:

I am working with a well-intentioned man who is considering becoming a part of our congregation. After exploring Wesleyan Doctrine, he is hung up on one thing- that we allow women in ministry. He believes that 1Timothy 2:8-15 is a clear Biblical prohibition against females in ministry.

I have always understood Paul's teaching on women in public worship environements in Corinthians and Timothy to be context driven and not a broad theological statement. This has been a learning experience for me because I learned that I was unprepared to defend our Wesleyan position, I had just accepted it. Any Biblical direction, orginal language clues, or historical perspective you could offer would be most welcomed. He is not bigoted about women, he feels they are equal in the eyes of the Lord but have been assigned different duties/roles in the kingdom.

How would you respond to his question?


naomi said…
What would Jesus say about this? Maybe, simply, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...and, love your neighbor as yourself. If that isn't ministry, then I don't know what is...and I don't think anyone is excluded.
Anonymous said…
After seeing your post this morning I thought I would give you this link to the main Wesleyan source of info and resources on Women in Ministry.

At this location you will find the Wesleyan Church's biblical support of Women in Ministry.
larry said…
The first evangelists to spread the good news of the risen Lord were women. Look it up.
Matthew 28:8
Josh said…
I'd like to respond to this post, but I will in the mean time post another resource on this topic, which comes from Dr. Ken Schenck's website,
Anonymous said…
Your pastor friend,
I am very impressed by your statement, "I learned that I was unprepared to defend our Wesleyan position, I had just acceped it." Just to accept or follow without understanding why is submitting to peer pressure.
Josh said…
How would I respond? This is an excellent question to ask. I think I first would affirm the person asking the questions - he should question this because it is a highly controversial issue. None the less, it is dubious to hold a particular theological position on the basis of one or two verses in all of the Bible. After affirming this person, I would admit that we must approach the Scriptures together in humility, noting that sometimes we don't have all the answers, but should consider all things in prayer. Ultimately, questions like this should lead us in to a deeper and fuller encounter with the biblical text. Lastly when we approach these controversial subjects we need to consider the whole biblical narrative and ask "What is clear and what is confusing?"

Here are some of my notes on the biblical support for women in ministry.

Descriptive material - What's Going On?

Old Testament
1. Miriam was a prophetess (Ex.15)
2. Deborah was a judge over all the nation (Judges 4:4)
3. Huldah was a consultant to the king (2 Kings 22)

New Testament
1. Jesus broke Torah and allowed a menstruating woman to touch him.
2. Jesus allowed a woman to let her hair down and kiss his feet - this was a remarkable expression of love and devotion. The Pharisee's were scandalized by this.
3. Women were among his closest followers. Learning from a rabbi was a privilege for men, not women.
4. Women hosted churches in their homes - which means they are heads of households (Acts 12).
5. Lydia, in Acts 16, was a successful business woman hosting a church.
5. In Acts 21, there are 4 unmarried daughters of Phillip the evangelist who prophecy.
6. Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned multiple times in the NT and are called "co-workers." Luke Timothy, Justice, Philemon, etc. were also called "co-workers". Same Greek word here.
7. Junia (Romans 16:7) is "prominent among the apostles." The earliest manuscrips show that Junia is feminine. Outide the NT, there are no masculine references to the masculine, Junias.
8. Phoebe is commended as diakonos - a deacon. She is a patroness. Diakonos is the same word used in the NT for "minister." There is no distinction in terminology here. An argument can be made that Phoebe is a minister.
Paul and Apollos are diakonoi. This word is also translated as "servant."

As far as proscriptive material is concerned, especially 1 Timothy 2:8ff., this is the only place in the whole NT where "have authority" is used in this way. The lexicon parallels to this phrase actually are used in a negative way, for example, it is used in violent or coercive terms. So, to have authority is really to "stick it" to someone or even murder them. Rather a woman is to remain calm, and keep her composure. This isn't a general legal statement. This is about aggressive confrontation. Given the cultural understanding of honor and shame, a woman ought not shame a man in public by doing these things.

This is a highly controversial and long-debated portion of scripture. By in large the Bible describes many many instances of women in authoritative positions including the OT.

The challenge of all of this lies in whether or not we're willing to allow Scripture to form us to what Scripture says when we read it in light of the broader biblical narrative.

Steve Gerich said…
NT Wright has a wonderful lecture entitled "Women's Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis" that very helpful.
Where the Spirit calls them, may they be bold enough to go.
Bill said…
There are many "objections" to this view of women in ministry / women pastors. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education was a qualification for ministry, the majority of Jesus' disciples likely would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the Ephesian women from teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a false Greek / Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
There is perhaps not a more debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors / preachers in ministry. As a result, it is very important to not view this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe that women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women - and there are men who believe that women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of Biblical interpretation.
Taken from:
Cheryl Schatz said…
There is a way to understand the hard passages of scripture on the issue of women in ministry that considers each passage in context using the inspired words and the inspired grammar that releases women to serve in any way that God has called her.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 for example has the prohibition with Paul connecting the entire passage to its conclusion in verse 15. One must be able to understand 1 Timothy 2:15 before verses 11-14 will make sense.

A preview clip of this hard passage in 1 Timothy 2 is on youtube at:

The introduction to the series on the hard passages is here:

1 Corinthians 14 regarding the silencing of women in the church is here:

Want to know why we don't wear head coverings? The difficult passage of 1 Cor. 11 is here:

Back to the basics from Genesis regarding creation is here:

Can a woman serve without fearing that she is somehow violating a command of God by using her God-given gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ? The passage dealing with Galatians 3:28 is here:
Anonymous said…
Cheryl..."women to serve in any way that God has called her"

Not only does this apply to women but all mankind. It is time we concentrate on what God wants us to do and quit trying to control or dictate what ways God wants others to serve. Let God be head of the church. So many of our dying churches have leaders who have decided only they are worthy of their positions. And...the talents of so so many are lost.
Sharon said…
Some who say that women are equal in the eyes of the Lord mean with regard to salvation etc. But they do not realize that the interpretations of the 1Timothy passage have had a traditional interpretation that is influenced culturally. The view of women has been affected by our Western history and the viewpoints that have been handed down through the centuries from Greek and Roman times. If we shed light on this then we understand that our biases keep us from seeing women as equal in other ways as well.
Anonymous said…
I would say the man is right. I'm uneasy when people try to explain away the words of the Bible to suit their own thinking. If the Bible says it I believe it, and would never try to think my own wisdom and understanding is above what the Bible clearly says. Also, I'm uneasy when women in the "worship team" wear tops that are WAY lowcut.
Sharon said…
No one is explaining away the words of the Bible. As a matter of fact, those who believe in the ordination of women value the Scripture highly and use a different hermeneutic (than someone who does not believe in the ordination of women) to interpret Scripture.
Anonymous said…
I prefer to leave this earth having believed the Bible as God put it into my hands. I chose not to become a scholar of hermeneutics, but would rather spend my time doing my best to follow the teachings in the Bible as I read it by itself. I know the Lord will forgive me for any mistakes I make along the way, if I confess my sins, known and unknown.
mark o wilson said…
your sons AND your daughters shall prophecy - Acts 2 (Joel 2).

That's a clear biblical case for women in ministry
The fact that the Bible mentions women AT ALL, considering the culture in which it was written, is enough affirmation for me.

And hey, not only are women mentioned, but they are mentioned leading. Fancy that. =)
Keith Drury said…
I'd probably defend the "right" of a denomination (in our modern world with so many denominations) to refuse to ordain any human being...

But when someone says they are "just following what the Bible says" (like Anonymous above wants to do) I'd insist they also follow the rest of the verses... and refuse to ordain single people, or even a married man who has no children, for how could these be "the husband of one wife" or "manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect?" And we'd remove from the ministry any pastor who had kids who did not obey them with proper respect too.

If a denomination honestly tries to follow all Paul's methods from the first century I can respect them--but "picking and choosing" verses is not playing fair with God's word and it shows something else is driving a position rather than pure obedience to the Bible.

As mentioned above, I see the trajectory of Scripture heading toward full acceptance of men and women for ministry. I wouldn't require women to wear the traditional middle eastern head-covering either.

The "pick and choose hermeneutic" is a simple one because one can say "I just follow what the Bible says." but if someone adopts this approach they should be honest enough to follow all of the Apostle Paul's procedures from the first century...

For me I appreciate that most denominations have tried to serve "this present age" in applying Biblical truth. If I were in the first century middle Eastern culture I'd probably use their methods. But I live in this century and this culture.
Ken Schenck said…
I'm late to this game, but one thing that has stood out to me more and more these days is how weird the 1 Timothy passage is in the light of the rest of Scripture. We all divide up passages on issues like this one into "clear" and "unclear." Anyone who says they don't isn't aware of themselves. Like my wedding ring stood out to some of my conservative relatives (that has to be a major statement by Ken because it stands out so much to me) or an almost unnoticeable pimple to my daughter (its huge--look at how awful that looks!), the flow of ideas have made this verse look really big on this issue to us, even though it is really odd when you place it next to the rest of Scripture and the NT in particular.

BUT, we still ignore the verses in 1 Timothy 5 about making younger widows remarry because they cannot control their sexual impulses. And of course we ignore the fact that women throughout the Bible do participate in ministry at all levels (they can't be priests, but we don't have any priests but Christ as Christians).

The general rule of thumb is not to base your theology of anything on just one verse. And that's what we have here--just one verse.

In the end, I think it's all a sham. If this is really a big deal to someone (and I don't know about this person), then something else is going on. The pretense of not joining a church over this issue often reveals a bigger issue with a person's psyche, a potentially scary one that can poison the Christian spirit in many ways. I'm content for such people (again, I don't know about this person) to join the dying fundamentalist church around the corner--that is, unless they are genuinely seeking the truth.
mark o wilson said…
Thanks everybody for your insights. I think this will be very helpful to my pastor friend.

Popular posts from this blog

Great Computer Cookies

Shepherds and Wise Men Both Made it to Bethlehem