Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Woman's Place


Steven Clark Goad

Why do we sometimes feel that the more things change the more they remain
the same – even in the church? Why are we coached that all people are
created equal but somehow can't escape the feeling that some people seem to
be "more" equal than others? And why is it that many Christian women can't
sense the equity that the scriptures teach is theirs in Christ Jesus? Aren't
these questions that trouble us?

If there truly is neither male nor female in Christ, then why are women in
the church relegated to mute spectatorship? Do we really think female
disciples are less articulate / intelligent and are thus somehow inferior
teachers and servants? If Priscilla could help teach a gospel preacher more
perfectly then why have some among us decreed that a Christian woman must
stop teaching a class of boys and girls when one of the boys obeys the

Why do we speak so glibly of usurping authority as the reasoning behind
women keeping "their places" in the family of God? Can anyone among us prove
that a woman leading a mixed group in prayer is somehow exercising dominion
over men and usurping their "authority"? Does anyone among us actually
believe that "serving" communion is an act of dominion over those served
when serving at home and for other occasions is seen for what it is –
service? Where is scripture that says women dominate men when they lead
singing or pass emblems? When selecting a song leader would we prefer a man
who can't read music or maintain a melody to a woman who has mastered music?
What sense is there in allowing a newly baptized ten-year-old boy to wait on
the Lord's Table while never allowing a sixty-year-old elder's wife? Why has
tradition got us all hot and bothered over who is "up front" in our

If the two scriptures that appeal to women's silence in the churches are
used to muzzle God's feminine disciples then why don't we enforce silence?
Why make all kinds of exceptions for singing and confessing sins and
confessing Jesus? Shouldn't women either remain silent or be allowed to
speak and participate as their gifts and insights prompt? Why were
Corinthian ladies allowed to pray with their heads covered? Why were they
allowed to prophecy if silence was a blanket mandate for then and for all
time? What of Phillip's four prophesying daughters? To whom did they
prophecy? Only to women and children? And shouldn't we posthumously rebuke
"the Samaritan well" woman for presuming that it was her prerogative to
introduce Jesus to her fellow townspeople? Shouldn't someone have explained
the laws of marriage-divorce-remarriage to her before she was allowed to
evangelize the entire town?

Who among us genuinely believes that our daughters and wives may teach men
through poetry and songs and books and articles in our religious journals
but could not rightfully teach the same men in a class setting? Why is it
"scriptural" for a woman to lead a song in a small congregation from her pew
yet somehow "unscriptural" and male dominating if she stands? Who among us
makes the laws regarding such matters as standing and sitting and passing
emblems and usurping? Why may a Christian sister pass the fruit of the vine
from side to side but cannot pass it down an aisle (the very same aisle she
passed it down when she prepared the table before the "worship service"

When scripture speaks of man being the head of woman, does it mean all men
are heads over all women? Or does it mean all Christian men are heads over
all women? Or does it mean all Christian men are heads over all Christian
women? And what right does one man have to be head over another man's wife
or daughter or sister? Isn't it more accurate to translate that a "husband"
is the "head" of his own wife? And if this be the case, how could a wife who
is asked to lead a prayer at the family dinner table be somehow wresting
dominion or headship from her mate in so doing?

Who have generally been the leaders of factions and rebellions among us; men
or women? Haven't preachers and elders and editors done the most damage and
dividing rather than the women? And how have we arbitrarily specified the
pulpit (a non biblical term in itself) area as the domain of men only and
the pew the place for women? And haven't most of our haggling and divisions
been over what can be done in and about areas and things not even mentioned
in the New Testament (pews and pulpits and church buildings and worship
services)? How have we been so duped into believing that serving in worship
roles must mean the exercising of "authority" over others? Do slaves really
have authority over their masters? Do servants somehow create dominion over
those they serve? Isn't this kind of thinking absurd?

Why should men servants of Jesus have any vested interest in maintaining
their bastions of male supremacy in the Christian family? Is the kingdom of
God the proper forum for power struggles and keeping spiritual sisters in
their places? Are men better worshippers and leaders than women? Did
Priscilla really have nothing of value to share with Apollos? Did Phillip's
daughters merely teach the kindergarten class?

Is the cause of Christ well served by a man teaching a Bible class who is
ill versed in scripture than by a woman who is well versed? Is a prayer
somehow superior falling from a man's lips rather than from a sister's? Why
can a man make announcements before "worship" begins and not usurp authority
over elders but if a woman makes the announcements she is exercising
dominion over every man and boy present?

Where are the texts that differentiate clearly between a "Bible class
assembly" and a "worship assembly"? Are such expressions even biblical? And
why may a feminine disciple speak up in a Bible class assembly if she is to
remain silent? And why must she remain silent in a worship assembly if she
may speak in Bible class assembly? And why may she read from scripture in a
Bible class with males present yet cannot read the same scripture in worship
assembly? What law can bind such arbitrary traditions on others? Why is a
stammering uninformed and inarticulate male preacher more pleasing to God
than an articulate, informed Christian woman?

Why may women vacuum, paint, clean and carry communion trays to the "pulpit
area" yet not be allowed to share their insights from the same area? Can we
continue to subjugate women of the kingdom and promote the notion that they
are somehow not really one with their male counterparts? How much longer
will we perpetuate the patriarchal system in which the kingdom of God had
its birth upon God's women? Is the kingdom culturally static or may it grow
and thrive no matter what the culture or time?

And would you please not Judge me too harshly for asking rhetorical
questions my devoted Christian sisters have been too polite to ask? I
strongly recommend "I permit not a woman ... TO REMAIN SHACKLED" by Robert H
Rowland, well respected educator, preacher and elder in the body of Christ.
This book may be purchased for $10 from Lighthouse Publishing Company, 525
N.W. 57th Street, Newport, Oregon 97365.

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