Women in Ministry – Delicious Hot Potatoes

Confusion, not Confucius, says, “He who handles hot potatoes seeks burnt fingers or mash!” I seek to produce some nutritious mashed potatoes, but I am bound to get my fingers burnt.

The sub-title of this article should be, “A position on women in ministry in 728 words… and other miracles!”. I can’t do justice in such a short article to this important topic, and I can’t even attempt to discuss the matter. What I can do though, is make some statements and hope that they stimulate a healthy appetite for the subject.

When dealing with a topic like this we, as Christians, can come at it from one of two directions. We can start with modern culture and then seek biblical support and justification, or we can seek to understand what the Bible teaches and then try to apply this to our time and culture. This second way is my convicted choice.

First off, let me state my firm belief that women and men are equal. In Christ, men and women are equally children of God. Role distinctions do not imply inequality in human society any more than they do within the divine society of the Godhead.

There are however differences between role/office and function/ministry. Roles within the family, and offices within the church, are specific positions of responsibility. Functions within the family and ministries within the church are non gender specific areas of service.

I believe that a woman should function in any capacity within the family. Income production, financial management, and so on, are not exclusively male domains. Child care, cooking, and so on, are not exclusively female functions. However I believe that the man should assume the headship role in the normal two-parent home. 1 Corinthians 11:3, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman is man…

I believe that a woman should minister anywhere within the church body. Teaching, preaching, and leading are not exclusively male ministries. Elders lead but not all leaders are Elders. Preaching and teaching are to be under the oversight and direction of Elders, but this applies equally to men and women. Sunday school, caring, and dance are not exclusively female ministries. However, I believe that only men should hold the office of Elders in the Church. (Titus 1:6-9,  1 Timothy 3:1-7 etc.)

The way I understand it is that headship is God’s wise provision for order and health within both family and church. He has ordained that husbands should be the head of their homes under His mandate as prescribed in scripture. He has also ordained that in the extended family of the church … Christ should be head. Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church…”  In the family wives have authority under mandate from their husbands as prescribed in scripture. In the church a group of male Elders have authority under mandate from Christ Jesus as prescribed in scripture. So Elders stand in the same relationship to the church as wives do to the family – Elders are wives and mothers, not husbands and fathers. Jesus is the head and husband of the church and God the Father is… well, the father.

But what is headship?  As I see it, a head is one who is given authority, within a specific mandate, to be the final arbiter. A Managing Director is head of a company under mandate from the board of directors. A President is head of a country under mandate from its citizens through constitution and vote.  Husbands are heads of their families and Elders have delegated and derived headship of the church.

I mentioned earlier my belief that women can and should preach and teach within the church. I understand ‘teaching’, in the sense that Paul views it in 1 Timothy 2:12, to be linked to authority. Only the Elders have authority to establish doctrine and practises within the local church. Having done this, then I cannot see why a woman, equipped and gifted for this ministry, should not preach or teach within the mandate of established doctrine and under the oversight of the Elders.

So there you have it – mashed potatoes without, I sincerely hope, too many of my sensitive little fingers being burnt.

 

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4 Responses

  1. Fred

    Hi Chris, I’ve recently had my fingers burnt when our local church decided to change the constitution to be “gender neutral” regarding the appointment of elders and pastors. The rationale was that interpretation of original scripture verses needs to be contextualised in their original surroundings and culture and then re-applied to current context and culture. What gives here as it sounds incredibly dangerous?

    • Christopher Peppler

      Hello again Fred. Part of the problem lies in how people understand ‘contextualizing’. Some, like the church leaders you refer to, believe that this means ignoring some biblical injunctions or teachings on the grounds that society has changed over the last 2,000 years and the texts in question are no longer relevant. For instance, they argue that Paul’s times were very male oriented, to the point of male chauvinism, and that is why he taught that Elders had to be men. What is happening here is that the Bible is being brought into conformity with current societal values and norms. I believe this to be a grave error. Instead, we should be seeking to determine what principle or key understanding is embodied in the biblical teaching and then apply that within the context of today’s society. Paul made it clear enough that he (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him) regarded headship as the key underlying issue: Adam was Eve’s head, the husband is head of the wife, and thus the Elders are to be the head (under Christ) of the Christian family, the church. On the other hand, for many years some Pentecostal churches insisted that women cover their heads when in public worship, and they based this on Paul’s teaching. But Paul was teaching about male headship and female head covering was merely a culturally relevant way of expressing this. Head covering no longer indicates submission to male headship and therefore it is fruitless for women to wear head coverings in a 21st-century church meeting. Yet the principles that Paul was teaching here still remain and are to be applied in today’s church. Hope this helps Fred.

  2. Fred

    Many thanks Chris. Good to have the reassurance, however, didn’t persuade the church leadership to move from an entrenched position. Ah well, moving on.

    Fred

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