Posted by: Stephen | September 25, 2010

Women in Ministry and the Impasse of Scripture

In response to the argument that the New Testament text “plainly says that women should be silent,” Jamey Walters names three options.

Option 1: Scripture does tell women to be silent, but this is based on cultural factors of the first century and are no longer applicable to us today.

Option 2: Using careful exegetical skills, we can come to the conclusion that these texts may not actually mean what we previously thought they meant (or at least that they may not be as universal or totalizing as we previously thought).

Option 3: We must fundamentally alter our understanding of what Scripture is and how it functions in the life of the Church.

Of the three options, Jamey articulates why the third is the most important for these conversations.  And I would add this third option actually takes scripture more, not less, seriously.

A very helpful and clarifying post, worth reading in its entirety.  Take a look… and thanks Jamey!



  1. I have been following the comments, posts and conversations surrounding this issue since the “Half the Church” site went up. I have to say, that Jamey’s post is the post I have been waiting for. For me, Jamey’s writing on #3 is really the heart of the matter. I feel the need to express my feeling that there is a lot of Paul-worshiping going on in these comments, posts and conversations. I know that some people feel that the writings attributed to Paul are God’s inerrant words to all humans. But I have difficulty with the idea that Paul should be considered the voice of God for all time on the issue of women’s roles in the church or any other matter! With regard to what Paul wrote, I would stick with “For now we see in a mirror dimly” and “the greatest of these is love”. Everything else, I will take with a grain of salt. Paul seems to float from “This is from God.” to “This is what I think.” to “This is what I took the dream to mean.” to statements that may or may not have been written by Paul. My point, in general, is that I don’t think that anyone will be free or equal in the CofC until its members are free from the oppression of inerrant scripture. Thanks to Jamey for his post. Would love to read more of what he has to write regarding #3.

  2. 25 years ago I would have left a church that used women in public ways. Now I help lead one. I am still the same serious student, and some of my questions remain unanswered.

    1 Cor. 14 clearly says ‘women should be silent in the churches.” It also talks about those who prophesy, speak in tongues, who interpret tongues, who pray with the spirit and sing with the spirit. We admit that we are not sure what some of those things are, or that we don’t have them in our assemblies. Is there inconsistency here? And if women are not to prophesy, why is a sign of the kingdom that women do prophesy (Acts 2:17+; 1 Cor. 11:5; Acts 21:9)? I struggled with that.

    1 Tim. 2:11 clearly states “let a woman learn in silence.” yet the same passage talks of men lifting hands in prayer and women not wearing gold, pearls, expensive clothes, or going to the beauty shop, and that her salvation depends on bearing children. It clearly states all of that. Dare we say one phrase is literal and the others cultural?

    Two things were major influences in my change of attitude. One was an extensive study of Luke-Acts. Over and over Luke pairs up men and women in the same situation. This is not the place for an extensive list (40-50 pairs), but I noted Anna and Simeon in the temple, both prophets of God seeking the Messiah. Or in the Acts 21 passage Agabas the prophet and the 4 daughters of Philip who were also prophets. I was amazed at the equality shown.

    The other major influence was my study of slavery. Passages such as Ephesians 6, Col. 3, Philemon tell slaves and masters how to treat each other, but they don’t say slavery is wrong. During the Civil War era this was the defense of many southern Christians for maintaining the slave system. We now understand that being created in the image of God makes us one, and we would not condone slavery in any fashion, but the scripture still says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.” As one historian wrote concerning the Civil War, “Freedom for slaves meant freedom for women.”

    Not everyone will reach the same conclusions, but this is a sketchy outline of my journey.

  3. Equality in the Church as I understand it, is that we are all children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t feel unequal if I am not asked to read a scripture or wait on the table, or pray publicly, etc. I like what Iris Smith said using the phrase “according to my gifts”, and they are distributed as the Holy Spirit sees fit. I see no need to “seek” equality before God for I already have that. I use my gifts as the occasion arises each day. The 4 or 5 hours at the building each week, in my opinion, are not more important than any other time, as I have opportunity. Women who understand it differently pose no problem for me. I love them whether we agree in this area or no. I would have a problem with an attitude that demanded “my rights” to do anything. The intent of having “rights”, in my opinion, would be unloving and unscriptural regardless of what it was about. My understandings in many areas of scripture have changed as I have matured in my discipleship. Long ago, I made a vow to God that any new light He gives me that I will walk in it, meanwhile doing what I already know to do, as Paul says in Phillipians. However, call it unequal if you choose, but I still see authority practiced in love, as God, Christ, Man and Woman in all aspects of life.

  4. I recently attended the ACU Summit 2010 and went to all the classes pertaining to gender equality. I’m still mulling over all the things I heard. I identfied strongly with the stories of the women who spoke, as for the majority of my life, I have felt the same conflicts. I truly wish that I could believe that a “new” understanding of 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 would allow me to participate in the ministries of the church according to my gifts. But, it just sounds like so much rationalization to make the scriptures say what I want them to. I continue to pray and study about this.

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