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Old 03-19-2003, 04:11 PM   #1
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The Role of Women in the Church

My wife has been a teaching leader for a bible study for over five years. She's been involved in leadership for this bible study for almost 15 years. She teaches a class of 300-400 women, giving weekly lectures.

My wife has always tried to live by Paul's admonition: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." (1 Timothy 2:12) She would not consider leading a bible study for a group of men.

We are not hypersensitive to the issue - our church has woman pastors.

Here's the rub - last night a close friend asked my wife to come over to discuss this topic. The message to my wife - you are in sin if you continue teaching. Her friend considered any formal teaching of adults to be inappropriate for woman and that women can only teach children or give guidance to other women on a one-on-one basis.

My question - how do you address this issue? Are you aware of any churches/denominations/etc. that interpret scripture so narrowly on this issue?

God Bless
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Old 03-19-2003, 06:30 PM   #2
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Here are some interesting but lengthy information on the subject.

http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/timothy.htm

But I'd like to add my $.02 as well. The Bible is full of laws of the land that were common for the times but hold no meaning for today. But man has twisted them in order to serve their own fears and hatreds. People have used them to place women below them, to condemn certain lifestyles, etc.

Here's a snippet of a sytirical letter that I found awhile back.

>>1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

>>2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

>>3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual cleanliness - Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

>>4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

>>5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

>>6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

>>7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

>>8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

>>9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

>>10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
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Old 03-19-2003, 06:36 PM   #3
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Thank you for the link.

As for your other questions referencing Old Testament passages, "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Romans 6:14

I agree, it would be very difficult today to obtain salvation according to the Law.
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Old 03-19-2003, 07:32 PM   #4
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Interesting question Doug....

This link talks about women in the Bible and also looks back to the original Greek translations rather than the King James version. Interesting background given on the specific group from Ephesus that Paul was talking to.

Ultimately I think if you and your wife have prayed about this and feel that this is a calling from Him, then you are following His command. I'm praying for your peace about this situation
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Old 03-19-2003, 10:09 PM   #5
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I did check out those two websites. There's a chance Paul was referring to the Gnostics.

If it doesn't, and Paul really does mean that women should not lead men in Bible study, my guess would be that's because men and women required specific spirituality because they're different; they have different needs, different temptations. How could a woman tell a man how to be a man? I'm sure Paul meant the same to men. I wouldn't want a man to give me advice on how to live a spiritual life as a woman. As a Christian in general, yes, but as a woman specifically, no.

I think your wife's friend was a bit overboard in her interpretations of the quote. Sure, a woman could teach children, but why can't she teach a whole group of women? Where's the sin in that? I don't believe God would be against that. He wasn't against the many female saints and mother superiors (nuns) teaching other women the Bible.

The only churches that I'm aware of that say this are the ones that take the Bible too literally.

Hope everything works out!
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Old 03-20-2003, 09:27 AM   #6
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Bonosloveslave's link is great!

In supporting the idea that God calls women to teach and be pastors, along with the information in that link above, I might also just point out that once you decide to take the path of treating statements like these as legalistic requirements, it is difficult to know where to stop. If your friend wants all of Paul's advice to women in church to be applied today, does your friend also feel that your wife must wear a head covering when she is leading prayer or prophesying, and that wearing anything but long hair is "a disgrace" for a woman? (I Cor 11:5-10)

And where do you stop the prohibition? If I answer a Biblical question by a man here, is that teaching? What if I answer a woman and a man reads it by accident? This is just the kind of mentality of piling up ever-more-specific definitions of laws that Jesus critiques in the Pharisees, and I have trouble imagining his requiring that kind of legalism of us.

To me, tho I respect people who read this differently, passages like 1 Cor 11:5-10 and 1 Timothy 2:12 seem to be instructions that made sense as God-honoring in Paul's specific culture/situation. In the same way, he gave instructions for keeping slaves, and that made sense to people then, since that was part of their worldview.

But I think that passages like Gal 3:28 (There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus), on the other hand, are clearly written in a more universal way and designed to state a central part of the Gospel message. I also think the clear passages in Paul's writings commending women deacons and a woman apostle support the idea that he applied the Gal 3:28 principle himself to support women leaders. (anyone who doesn't know these, see Bonosloveslave's link)

Just as it took the Christian world far too long to realize that if God says "in Christ there is neither slave nor free," we should abolish slavery even if Paul did commend it, in the same way many people are still struggling with deciding whether "in Christ there is neither male nor female" is more central than some passages about women's roles in Paul's churches.

As I said, I respect people who read this differently than I do, but this is how I read it.
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Old 03-20-2003, 10:09 AM   #7
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Allow me to comment this way.

Who the hell said that St. Paul was infallible? Is St. Paul "God"? Not in the slightest. Why I think he is fitting for the Bible, though, is because he is a lot like us. St. Paul continually strived to be like Jesus, but, like us, he always fell short. I think passages like the above are ritualistic and unnecessary for faith. Ask yourself this: do you think that God, at the end of the day, really would condemn a female teacher anymore than a male teacher? 1 Timothy 2:12 is an archaic passage from a time gone by. Good riddance.

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Old 03-20-2003, 01:41 PM   #8
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I completely respect your beliefs nbcrusader, and I wouldn't presume to tell you what to do.

But just in my humble opinion, any literal interpretation such as that is so outdated and unfair. Certainly women have SO MUCH to offer as religious teachers, and to deprive us of that is very offensive to me.

I think that what your wife has to offer far outweighs one person's very strict interpretation of scripture. I think your wife should stand her ground here.

When girls were finally allowed to be altar servers at my church, I was so thrilled, yet so sad that I was not allowed that opportunity.
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Old 03-20-2003, 03:07 PM   #9
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Thank you for your comments and words of support.

We try to conform our life to Scripture and avoid conforming Scripture to our life. It can be a difficult task and we try to compare Scripture with Scripture to find our answers.

My wife found great relief with the information contained in Beth's link (thank you!!). It was very comforting for the confirmations to what she already knew in her heart.

Thank you all again!!
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Old 03-21-2003, 06:24 AM   #10
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I would highly recommend a book called "Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis". It is fascinating to me how in Christianity we claim to have so much respect for the Bible, but continue to interpret it in a static and legalistic manner. This is one issue that I probably won't even go into (the women's issue) because I feel so strongly about it and might easily lose my temper and say hurtful things I might regret. I think mebythesea summed up what I would argue tho.

My central thought though is this. Are we all not created in the image of God? Are we not all equally human?

Something to think about.
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Old 03-22-2003, 11:20 AM   #11
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Thank you, sula dear. I was beginning to get a little riled.

NBC, I would reconsider that friendship.
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Old 03-22-2003, 01:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


I think that what your wife has to offer far outweighs one person's very strict interpretation of scripture. I think your wife should stand her ground here.


Like Sula and Martha have expressed, I have stong feelings about this issue. But ultimately, you have to decide for yourself... I also would like to say that it seems the two of you are very joyful in the work you do in church. Nothing, no person, should destroy that. Obviously there is a reason, God's reason, that your wife is teaching... and if her classes are 300-400 women, I'm sure she's doing some incredible work! And why should one person ruin that when 400 women repeatedly come to the classes?

Good luck in your decision!
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Old 03-24-2003, 08:54 PM   #13
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I had great problems with that passage of the Bible, 1 Corinthians, few years ago, especially when the Southern Baptist church (in america) had a strict ban on women pastors.

A friend at bible college tried his best to answer my queries. He told me that the context of that passage was that the women at the church he was speaking to were exchanging malicious gossip etc. Hence, "women should remain silent". At that time, the men sat in front while the women remained behind the temple. In order to ask a question or anything, a woman had to pass the message to her husband at the front, for him in turn to pass the message to the preacher. Something like that. Hence the verse, "if they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands".

VERY UNSATISFACTORY EXPLANATION, in my opinion. melon is right in this case; Paul isn't God.

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Old 03-25-2003, 11:21 PM   #14
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Yep, what melon said.
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Old 04-01-2003, 09:07 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by sulawesigirl4
I would highly recommend a book called "Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis".

Hey, I just wanted to drop back into this thread to thank you for this recommendation. I ordered that book and am about 1/3 of the way into it. I find his style a bit wooden and clinical, but it's one of the first things I have read that really steps back from particular arguments and tries to set criteria for *how* to decide if a particular passage is culturally-bound or still directly applicable today. Don't have an opinion on some of it yet, but the principles I think I will find very useful in future.
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Old 04-01-2003, 09:09 AM   #16
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hey, mebythesea, I am really glad that you are finding it useful. I totally agree about the style of the author, it can be very dry and even boring, but I think that he lays out a very even-handed and intelligent case and a very biblical one that is helpful not only in this issue, but potentially in many "cultural vs. biblical" discussions.
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Old 04-11-2003, 12:59 AM   #17
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I'm curious as to what happened after we had this discussion?

If you care to share that is...
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Old 04-11-2003, 07:35 PM   #18
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Yes, I would be interested too.

What´s up, nbcrusader, man!
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Old 04-11-2003, 11:01 PM   #19
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I really appreciate your asking

It has been fairly odd over the last few weeks. My wife's friend left the bible study, but continues to call as if nothing ever happened. It is that odd "there is an elephant in the room" feeling.

My wife spoke with a couple of her mentors and all soundly encouraged her to continue on with teaching. After significant times of prayer, my wife is well assured that God's call for her is to continue teaching.


The one thing that scare me about our "friends" is that they attend a very small church (no more than 10 people). Our friend asked their pastor if the position regarding woman teaching (i.e., no teaching, not even other women) was widely held. The response was - "no one, we are the only ones who understand Scripture this way".

When I heard this, one word came to mind - cult.

I will post more as this plays out. Thank you all again for your thoughts and prayers.

Peace.
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Old 04-11-2003, 11:59 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
My wife spoke with a couple of her mentors and all soundly encouraged her to continue on with teaching. After significant times of prayer, my wife is well assured that God's call for her is to continue teaching.
awesome

I've been dealing with women's issues a lot in the last couple of weeks and I was thinking about this thread... I'm glad that your wife has assuance of what she should be doing
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