The decades of the 1980s and 1990s have seen serious questions raised regarding the role of women both in leadership and public worship of the Lord's church. In some areas strife and division have occurred when change in the traditional role of women has been implemented over objections of those who see no need for such changes.
Are there changes which need to be made in the roles women have traditionally carried out in the church? If such changes are needed are they major or minor in nature? Does the culture of our present day demand that the church make such modifications, and, if so, can we justify these new roles by the authority of the Scriptures?
Some of our FCGN readers have requested articles dealing with these issues out of concern for the direction in which their local congregations seem to be headed. One elderly brother who has preached and taught in Christian educational institutions for fifty years has said that he feels that the issue of the roles of women in the church will be one of the most divisive issues the church will ever face. Are those who are holding to the traditional roles for women afraid of change? Are they chauvinist men who are afraid of losing their power over women? Have those who are pushing for these changes carefully thought out the consequences of pushing these matters to the division of the body of Christ? Do those demanding change truly respect the authority of the Scriptures, or have they had to redefine the Bible words to fit their present agenda, as well as put forth a new hermeneutic (way of interpreting the Scriptures)? These are some of the questions we will attempt to answer in the coming months, as we present a series of articles on this issue. If you have specific questions you want to see answered, write to us and express yourselves. We will attempt to deal honestly with each aspect of these matters. Believing the Bible to be God's fully inspired message to mankind regarding His will for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17), I pledge to respect the authority of the Scriptures on every matter to which it speaks, explicitly and implicitly. If you expect otherwise you will be greatly disappointed and you need to reexamine your outlook on how you view the Bible.
The Importance Of Women In The Lord's Church
Without women in the Lord's church we would be in big trouble! Although men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders in the family (Genesis 18:19; Ephesians 5:23-24; 6:4), in our present day so many men are either not spiritually minded, or they have surrendered their responsibilities in this area and wives and mothers have had to provide what is lacking. While we do have godly and responsible men in the Lord's body, no one can successfully argue against the claim that we need more men (all men) to take up their spiritual responsibilities both in the home and the church. Many places cannot get the men in their churches to take seriously the need to be qualified and to serve as elders and deacons. If asked, they commonly refuse to serve in those capacities. When these roles are specifically designated for men (1 Timothy 3:1-15; Titus 1:5-11), where do we find biblical authority to place women in such roles?
A woman who is the spiritual leader in her home, because her husband refuses to be one, does not become the "man of the house" or the head. She may be providing what the man will not, but she does not become her own "head." First Peter 3:1-6 recognizes situations where the husband is not spiritually minded, but still requires the women to "be in subjection to your own husbands." Likewise, a woman might provide some type of leadership in a congregation where all of the men refuse to do so, but she can never be an elder because that role was never given to women. The situations where such a default of all the men in a congregation toward their responsibilities would be few, but none would justify a woman assuming the role of an elder.
Most congregations have more women in them than they have men. This is not just because women outlive men. Even among the younger aged groups, there are more women than men. A great deal of the work done in most congregations is done by the women of the church. This is not to say that men do nothing, for there are many hard-working men in the church. However, we wish to recognize the fact that women are involved in much of the work that is done in local churches! Women teach Bible classes of children and also teenage girls and young women, as well as ladies' classes (Titus 2:3-4). Women teach in home Bible studies to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20). Ladies are engaged in the tremendous work of benevolence in helping care for the needy, the sick, the bereaved; doing house cleaning, food preparation and a variety of other chores. There are myriad of duties women perform alone, with other women, or alongside men doing the same type of work. A congregation without its women would be impoverished indeed! Much work now being done would not be done without our women. Men, when is the last time you prayed and thanked God for all the godly women in your local congregation who work so diligently? Have you ever done so? We need to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). Our women are worthy of great honor for all they do!
The Present Crisis
What are the reasons for the present crisis? Part of the problem may be that men and the church in general have not given proper recognition of the tremendous contributions which women have made in the Lord's church. The restlessness in some women may be just a desire for some deserved recognition. We men can be awfully dense (or just plain stupid) at times and fail to recognize such needs in our women whether at home or in the church. This is not to say that all of the issues being raised by women are shallow and can be resolved by a pat on the head and a few kind words, but women appreciate being appreciated, perhaps more than men feel such expressions are necessary. While proper respect and thankfulness for our women is all that many of them desire, the problems some women express run much deeper.
Surely no one will deny that the present cultural climate in our society has contributed greatly to the demand for changes in the roles of women in the church from both men and women. The stir on the so called Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s; the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in 1973, giving a woman the right to destroy the life of the baby because it is "her" body; the Feminist Movement of the 1980s; the gay rights for Lesbians of the 1990s; all of these have empowered women in ways they never experienced in American society before. It seems logical that this growing movement of women's rights would reach out to any area in which women felt restrictions which were not placed upon men. The church is one such target. The question which Christians must squarely face is this: "What do the Scriptures have to say about these issues?" For those who accept the Bible as being God's word and also accept God's will for all women and men fully revealed therein, the task will boil down to this. What do the Scriptures teach regarding the roles women are to have in leadership and public worship in the church for which Christ died? We will investigate these things fairly and as fully as space allows. While we will not be swayed to change our views based on how these articles are received, we are interested in your comments and criticisms, or your questions.
Current articles in this series:
- The Bible (37)
- The Church (33)
- Holy Spirit (2)
- Bible Authority (11)
- Calvinism (7)
- Nature of God (9)
- Faith (19)
- Family Matters (7)
- Denominationalism (10)
- Attitudes (46)
- Christian Living (57)
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