The Connecticut Valley Church of Christ in Windsor, Connecticut began to discuss a greater role for women in the church in 1993. After several years of intermittent discussions and study the leaders of the congregation decided in 2010 to phase in the changes they proposed. In a Statement issued by the leaders of the congregation (INVOLVEMENT OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE PUBLIC ASSEMBIES OF THE CONNECTICUT VALLEY CHURCH OF CHRIST, April 2013) they explain their decision:
For some time the elders have been studying this issue of women’s roles. Through the course of our study we have come to a unified agreement that as far as God is concerned there is no distinction between what a man or a woman may do in any gathering of the Connecticut Valley Church of Christ. This includes:
• Scripture reading
• Communion thought
• Worship coordinator
• Song leader
• Teach of adult Bible classes
An on-line copy of the above document is available at: http://storage.cloversites.com/connecticutvalleychurchofchrist/documents/Synopsis%20of%202008-2009%20Study.pdf.
On more than one occasion one of the leaders of this congregation and an architect of the CVCC document, asked that I review the Statement of the Connecticut Valley Church of Christ. After prayer and study I have put together the following pages entitled “A REVIEW.” For the purposes of this REVIEW, I have referred to the Connecticut Valley Church Statement as the CVCC Statement. May the REVIEW go to those interested in careful and diligent study of these matters with the hope that we will all be faithful to the Scriptures as well as to the principle of the Restoration: “We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent.”
–– David Tarbet
Church of Christ
New Milford, Connecticut
June 10, 2014
PRIOR TO THE FALL
Leaders of the Connecticut Valley church conclude that
• There is no evidence of inequality of the sexes or hierarchy of any kind
• The entire focus is on a husband and wife, not on men and women in general
• Adam and Eve shared joint dominion over the earth
• Though no hierarchy in their relationship is in evidence, God did distinguish between Adam and Eve in that, although Eve sinned first, God initially addressed Adam abut the sin, not Eve or both of them together.
–– CVCC Statement, page 1, 2
The sequence and purpose of Creation is important to this discussion. “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. …. The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him…. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’” (Genesis 2:7, 18, 20-23)
With regard to “inequality” of the sexes, this discussion should begin by affirming that God made both male and female in His own image (Genesis 1:27). He loves males and females equally; both are equally valuable to Him; both have equal access to His grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is not a matter of regarding women as unequal to men, but of recognizing that God has assigned different roles to males and females in His kingdom. Woman’s submission to man should in no way be considered degrading to her. Respect for what God says about man’s leadership role and woman’s role of submission to his leadership brings out the best in both men and women. It creates harmony in the home and in the church.
A hierarchy of authority is definitely part of the picture of Creation. In the words of Stephen B. Clark:
“The term ‘subordination’ has been chosen for this discussion because, it is one of the best translation of a Greek word (hypostasso) commonly used in the New Testament to express this aspect of the husband-wife relationship and other similar relationships. The English word ‘subordination’ means literally ‘ordered under,’ and its Greek counterpart means almost the same. The word does not carry with it a notion of inferior value. A subordinate could be more valuable in many ways than the person over him or her. Nor does the word carry with it a notion of oppression or the use of force for domination….
‘Subordination’ simply refers to the order of a relationship in which one person, the subordinate, depends upon another person for direction. The purpose of this order is to allow those in the relationship to function together in unity…. A person could be subordinate without ever having to obey a command. People can subordinate their lives or actions to another in many ways: by serving another, by observing and cooperating with the other’s purposes and desires, by dedicating their lives to the cause the other is upholding, or by following the other’s teaching.” (Clark. Man and Woman in Christ, 1980. p. 23-24).
Contrary to the CVCC Statement, there is clear evidence that man’s leadership authority is rooted in the Creation (Genesis 2), and not as a consequence of the Fall (Genesis 3).
First, man was created before woman (Genesis 2:7). The implication and inspired application of this was clear to the apostle Paul, who based his teaching that “woman is not permitted to teach or have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12) on the fact that the precedence of creation was the man. “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13).
Second, Man was given the responsibility to work and take care of the garden of Eden before the creation of the husband-wife relationship. In the process of working and toiling in the garden Adam came to realize that he needed someone to help him. God created his helper. It now became Adam’s duty to pass along to Eve what God had already told him to do, as well as to warn her concerning eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. Man led the way. When Eve was made, she “came on board” with all the work involved in taking care of that magnificent garden and ruling over the creatures, just as God intended (Genesis 1:28).
Third, Man was given leadership authority to “name” things God had made. “Naming” the animals symbolized his authority over them (Genesis 2:19-20). Later, he gave Eve her name (Genesis 2:23; 3:20).
Fourth, woman was created to be man’s helper (Genesis 2:18). The inspired apostle reasoned that this very act teaches that man is “head” of the woman (1 Corinthians 11:3-10). “The head of woman is man…. He is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” Headship denotes ‘authority over’. In the Corinthian church women were to wear a veil to show their respect for the headship of man.
Fifth, leadership includes accountability. God held the man accountable for the woman’s sin when he failed to exercise his God-given responsibility to protect her from the devil’s temptation and deception. Even though Adam was “with her” when Satan tempted Eve (Genesis 3;6), he did nothing to rescue her. He was not deceived by the temptations. Eve, however, was deceived, Because Adam abdicated his responsibility to lead in a godly and decisive manner, he received the blame for sin entering the world (“Sin entered the world through one man”, Romans 5:12). The Fall was the result of man failing to exercise his headship responsibly.
“The most normal reading of the account would indicate that the woman is subordinate to the man throughout chapters 2 and 3. ….There is a subordination in Genesis 2, but it is a very specific kind of subordination –– the kind that makes one person out of two. According to Genesis 2, woman was created to be a help to man, not to be a servant or a slave. She was created to be a complement to him, making a household and children possible. He in turn protected her, provided for her, and considered her part of himself, a partner in life. He was the head of the relationship, head of a relationship that was ‘one flesh.’ …. Because the narrative concerns the beginnings of the human race, Genesis 2-3 is about more than the husband-wife relationship. It’s about the man-woman relationship.” (Clark, Man and Woman in Christ. p. 26).
AFTER THE FALL
The CVCC Statement affirms: “Adam was put in a position over Eve as a consequence of the fall” (p. 4).
On the other hand, according to Stephen B. Clark, “The view that man-woman subordination in scripture derives from the curse after the Fall is not a highly tenable interpretation.” (Clark, Man and Woman in Christ. p. 36).
The curse which Eve received followed sin entering the world was this: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). What does “he will rule over you” mean?
Some, following the views expressed in the CVCC Statement, think to “rule over” means woman became subordinate to man. However, we have already seen that Adam’s headship was his God-given assignment based on Creation (Genesis 2); that the Fall came about only when Adam failed to exercise his authority as protector and leader of his family –– a role God assigned to him prior to the Fall! The words “rule over” mean something entirely different from headship. They indicate the kind of rule which involves force, conflict or compulsion. Cain was told he must ‘master’ (the same word translated ‘rule’) sin which crouched at the door (Genesis 4:7). The Septuagint translates this word by the Greek ‘kyrieuo,’ which Jesus used to refer to pagan rulers who ‘lord it over’ others (Luke 22:25). The kind of ‘rule over’ which resulted from the curse would be forceful, coercive, oppressive, self-centered and cruel, causing woman pain. This was quite a contrast to the godly, respectful headship and submission Adam and Eve shared earlier in the garden!
The Scripture never refers to the curse on woman as the foundation of Christian subordination. “In fact the New Testament bases none of its directives on the curses. Instead the foundation of New Testament teaching is the purposes of God in creation.” (Clark. Man and Woman in Christ. p. 33)
This, by the way, is the common view of the curse in Genesis 3:16. It has been the understanding of Biblical interpreters and commentators through the centuries. In recent times evangelical women’s-liberationists have placed a unique “spin” on this passage to make it teach that man’s headship is the curse!
When husbands demonstrate loving leadership with authority and kindness, always looking out for what is best for their wives, most women will gladly “submit” to their headship, knowing that this is God’s command: “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
1 CORINTHIANS 11:3-12
“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God…. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.”
In dealing with the Biblical teaching on man’s “headship” leaders of the CVCC Statement wrote: “We concluded provisionally that the usual meaning signifying leadership or having authority is probably the correct one.” (p. 8). We might wish they had not used the words “provisionally” and “probably.” In any case, it is comforting to know that they believe that at least for some women God expects submission to the authority of at least some men. But which women and which men?
Authors of the CVCC Statement believe it is incorrect that 1 Corinthians 11:3 be translated from the Greek words ‘aner’ and ‘gyne’ as ‘men’ and ‘women’ as the translators of the American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New International Version, Revised English Bible, World English Bible, New Century Bible, King James Version, New King James Version, Today’s New International Version, Bible in Basic English, Common English Bible, Rhemes New Testament, New English Bible, Amplified Bible, Holman Christian Standard Version, Lexham English Bible, William Barclay New Testament and the McCord New Testament have done. Authors of the CVCC Statement think the text should be rendered ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’ –– that only married women are instructed to be submissive to men, specifically to their husbands. “No where else in the entire Bible are men and women in general put in a hierachal relationship,” the Statement declares. (A much smaller number of English translations read “husbands” and “wives,” including some paraphrases.).
When words can have more than one meaning context must determine how these words are translated. Undoubtedly the translations listed above deliberately chose “man” and “woman” as the proper translation of ‘aner’ and ‘gyne’ because in this context Paul is referring back to Creation as recorded in Genesis chapter 2 (1 Corinthians 11:8). Further, in stating that “Christ is the head of man” these translators did not want to leave the impression that Christ is the head only of married men.
It is in this context that godly women were commanded to wear a veil, to have their heads covered, to show respect for divinely appointed gender differences. This instruction would apply to women regardless of their marital status. (Jewish history bears witness that both married and unmarried women wore a veil in New Testament times.) What was the purpose of the veil? To show that women respected the headship authority of men. In the words of the inspired apostle: “A man ought not to cover his head since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man…. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head” (1 Corinthians 11:7-10).
Nor should we conclude what the CVCC Statement refers to as an “unthinkable” position, where one man’s wife is subject to the authority of another wife’s husband. Paul’s point in this context is the difference of roles between genders, and the fact that this difference is rooted in Creation itself. The wearing of a veil indicated respect for what God put in place at the very beginning. Cultural ways of showing respect for gender differences may vary from one generation to the next, but the principle of respect for man’s leadership in the home and in the church remains eternal.
Does woman’s “submission” to man as her “head” mean woman is inferior to man? Modern feminists argue that differences in function must imply women are somehow inferior to men. The response to this was well stated by Thomas R. Schreiner, Associate Professor of New Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary:
“Paul is saying that Christ is the authority over every man, man is the authority over woman, and God is the authority over Christ. Since Paul appeals to the relation between members of the Trinity, it is clear that he does not view the relations described here as merely cultural, or the result of the fall…. Evangelical feminists conclude that a difference in function necessarily involves a difference in essence; i.e. if men are in authority over women, then women must be inferior. The relationship between Christ and the Father shows us that this reasoning is flawed. One can possess a different function and still be equal in essence and worth. Women are equal to men in essence and being…yet they have a different function or role in church and home…. We have already seen that the clear meaning of ‘head’ is authority and thus a hierarchy is definitely established. Why then, does Paul place “the head of Christ is God” last? I think that Paul added the headship of God over Christ last right after asserting the headship of man over woman in order to teach that the authority of man does not imply the inferiority of woman or the superiority of men.” (Schreiner: “Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, p. 128-130).
There is absolutely no way to prove that men were present when women prayed and prophesied in the Corinthians church. There is no consensus among Biblical scholars on this point. This is only an assumption some are making. Assumptions do not establish the validity of one’s reasoning. Without a doubt there must have been times when Christian women gathered for fellowship, spiritual instruction and prayer when no men were present, just as there are such opportunities to do the same today. Regardless of whether or not their husbands were present at the time, godly married women in ancient times wore a veil to indicate their respect for their God-given role of submission (this is the context) and perhaps also that they were neither religiously unfaithful or sexually unfaithful to their spouses. Wearing a veil in public assured that godly wives did not “behave in such a way that would bring shame or dishonor to their husbands” –– whether or not their husbands were with them. In the first century, having their heads covered with a veil would be appropriate attire for unmarried women who revered God as well, for it symbolized respect for things God appointed at Creation.
The CVCC Statement affirms: “…there is nothing in the NT that would cause one to suspect that there are any restrictions on what women may do in Christian assemblies” (p. 9). It is worth considering that if I Corinthians 11:2-16 authorizes women to have a leading role in public worship where both men are present, the early Church Fathers knew nothing about it. Tertullian (160-230 AD) wrote: “It is not permitted to the woman to speak in church, not to teach, to baptize, to present (the offering), nor to pretend to do any kind of function reserved to man, to say nothing of the sacerdotal (priestly) office.” The sacerdotal office included presiding at the Communion table. If the early Church Fathers did not conclude that Paul taught that women should lead in public worship neither should we.
I CORINTHIANS 14:34-35
“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
It is obvious that if Paul’s instruction about women being “silent” in the churches if taken at face value would be a serious challenge to the position of the CVCC Statement. We are not surprised, therefore, to read: “It is clear that Paul is writing only about married women and only a special group of them, namely those who have Christian husbands who are capable of answering questions…. Virtually all English translations obscure this fact by translating the gender-specific word ‘gyne’ by women/woman, rather than wives/wife, as the context requires.” (p. 10). It should raise a “red-flag” when we hear “virtually all English translations” indicted as mistranslations of the Greek text. The reason “virtually all English Translations” render ‘gyne’ as ‘women/woman’ is because the context demands it.
We wonder also why unmarried women would be exempt from Paul’s command. If the reason Paul commanded women to be “silent” in the churches was that married women who failed to understand what the prophets were prophesying were being disruptive, shouting out their questions, were there no unmarried women (virgins or widows) who were victims of the same circumstances?
Here are the comments of Stephen B. Clark:
“Paul instructs the women to be silent because they are women, not because they are disorderly. First, the passage offers no hint that the women are causing any disorder, other than the disorder that occurs simply from the fact that they are ‘speaking’ and they are women. Secondly, Paul says that the rule he is applying is the same rule followed by all the churches of the saints, and is not a directive given to straighten out a particular difficulty among the Corinthians. Third, Paul says clearly that it is shameful for a woman to “speak.” He does not say that it is shameful for a woman to speak in a disorderly way. Her “speaking” is the shameful action. Finally, if disorder were the issue, men as well as women should have been instructed to keep silent and to be subordinate to the order of the assembly” (Clark. Men and Women in Christ. p. 185-186).
After Paul has identified those who bring “a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (v. 26) as well as a prophesy (v. 29-33) he lays down God’s commands about doing such things “for the strengthening of the church” (v. 26) in a way that is “fitting and orderly” (v. 40). Then he turns to discuss what is expected of Christian women in public worship: “women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak; they must be in submission” (v. 33-34). Leadership in public worship is assigned to the male members of the congregation. It’s a matter of recognizing the divinely appointed roles of males and females. Women are to be in submission to the spiritual leadership of men who lead the worship service. “For it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (v. 35).
What does Paul mean by “as the Law says” (v. 34)? He gives no direct quotation from the Old Testament, but he may well have been referring to the fundamental teachings of man’s spiritual leadership and woman’s submission to that leadership as established at Creation in Genesis chapter 2. The apostle Peter referred back to the Law as an example of women being submissive to their husbands (1 Peter 3:6). It is most unlikely that he refers to the “curse” placed on woman at the Fall because the curses of the Fall are not appealed to elsewhere in the New Testament as a basis for Christian behavior. To say “The only place in ‘the law’ that could be Paul’s reference is Gen. 3:16” is misleading.
Everett Ferguson, professor emeritus of church history and Distinguished Scholar of Abilene Christian University, offers these insightful thoughts on I Corinthians 14:34-35:
The speaking under consideration is the addressing of the congregation (in this instance by those with the gifts of prophecy and of speaking in tongues) or the speaking for the congregation (as in prayer –– vss. 15-17); the silence is not absolute but the ceasing from such speech. Congregational speech (such as singing or saying the ‘Amen”) would not be excluded. If some type of disorderly speech were all that was involved, Paul would have forbidden that and regulated the speech, as he does with the prophets and tongue speakers (vss 27-32); instead, he forbids the women speaking altogether (in an authoritative way, as in prophesying and teaching, or in a representative way, as in praying). One type of speech is specific as forbidden: questioning. In this instance it would be questioning that disrupted the assembly or challenged the authority of the speaker (as in the discerning of the prophets), or the type of questioning used among the Jewish rabbis as a method of teaching.
The prohibition of women prophesying or giving authoritative teaching in the assembly would seem to contradict 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, where the women prayed and prophesied, It is not certain that these activities occurred in the assembly, for 1 Corinthians 11:17 seems to mark a transition from commendation to rebuke and to a new setting, “when you come together.” …. Praying and prophesying could be in a group or here of “public” but not in an assembly of the church (cf. Acts 21:8-12). The ranking established at creation regulated the relations of male and female (1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-12). A woman’s wearing a veil was the cultural expression (1 Corinthians 11:5-6, 13-15) of those relationships appropriate in that circumstance. The distinctive positions of male and female were not based on the culture but on what God instituted at creation…. The prohibition of 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35, as reflecting relations established at creation, was not a local requirement because of disturbances at Corinth but was in accord with practice “in all the churches of the saints” –– Ferguson, The Church of Christ, a Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (1996), p. 342-343.
In a more recent book, Ferguson summarizes the historical evidence for women’s involvement in the work of the post-apostolic church by stating that all women (that is, both married and the unmarried) “were forbidden to teach and to preside at baptisms …. Although women were denied public preaching and liturgical functions, including baptism, there were many opportunities for women to serve, e.g. private teaching” (The Early Church and Today, p. 134-135). He continues: “Except in some heretical and schismatic groups, the churches in the early patistric period, as in the New Testament, evidence prohibitions on women speaking in the assembly and serving in leadership positions of bishop/presbyter or presiding at liturgical functions.” (p. 137).
I Corinthians 14:34-35 is important to understand the difference in spiritual responsibilities between males and females –– whether they are married, never married or widowed. The “silence” enjoined on women has to do with leadership in worship when men are present. It has nothing to do with women singing hymns to God or making the “good confession” or even confessing their sins to one another. Paul’s command is inspired and authoritative. He concludes his instructions with these words: “If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
I TIMOTHY 2:8-15
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”
The CVCC Statement struggles to harmonize 1 Timothy 2:8-15 with the view that “there is no distinction between what a man or a woman may do in any gathering of the Connecticut Valley Church of Christ.” As attempted justification for this position, the Statement affirms that: (1) The phrase ‘in all subjection’ (2:11) refers only to wives of husbands not women in general. (2). The teaching the women in Ephesus were doing was forbidden because it was being done in a domineering manner. (3) It is plausible that their teaching involved false doctrine. (4) The reference to Adam and Eve evidently concerns Eve teaching in a domineering way. (5). The reference to Eve being deceived points back to the marriage relationship. After a somewhat lengthy discussion on this passage, the Statement concludes: “(It) is best seen as Paul’s response to a particular situation in an individual church, probably also involving Christian wives either primarily or entirely” (p. 11-15).
In this REVIEW we offer the following observations:
First, Paul is discussing differences in roles and responsibilities between men and women. Males (the Greek word is andras) are instructed to “pray everywhere” (1 Timothy 2:8). On the other hand, females (the Greek word is gunaikas) are instructed to dress modestly as is “appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). The commands are addressed to Christian men in general and to Christian women in general, not specifically married men or married women. Virtually every English translation renders these Greek words as “men” and “women,” not “husbands” and “wives.”
Second, Paul is describing the roles of men and women primarily in the local church. Everett Ferguson argues persuasively that the instruction for males to “pray everywhere” in verse 8 is used in the Old Testament as well as in contemporary Jewish literature to refer to “congregations” or “public assemblies” of worshipers (Ferguson, The Early Church and Today, pp 237-247). While the word has a primary focus on the public meetings for worship there is a wider application to other places and other circumstances where men will lead in prayer. In a similar way, the primary focus on women’s modesty in attire (vss. 9-10) and learning in “quietness and full submission” is in public meetings of the church where males are present, but by extension these instructions have an application on woman’s role in the family as well. Woman’s “submission” is required by God in both the church and in the family.
Third, the inspired writer carefully identifies the submissive roles of women: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (v. 12). Jack Lewis, of Harding Graduate School of Religion, has pointed out that the words “teach” and “have authority over” are coordinate clauses; both apply to the words “a man” (Lewis, Leadership Questions Confronting the Church, 1985 p 5.)
Fourth, contrary to the affirmations of the CVCC Statement, Paul is not concerned about women “domineering” over men; that is not the context of his instructions. There is no hint in this passage that Paul’s concern is only that some women are wrongly handling authority. Disorderliness is not the subject of these verses; woman’s submission to the man is the topic. It is worth noting that the terms “teach” and “exercise authority” are parallel. The kind of teaching under discussion is teaching which involves exercising authority. “Teach” and “exercise authority” are also parallel to “full submission” and “quietness.” Women are not to occupy places of leadership in the church because this is contrary to the order of Creation: “for Adam was formed first, them Eve.”
Fifth, neither is Paul discussing women teaching false doctrines. Those who teach are accountable to God for teaching the truth and must avoid false teachings at all costs. However, that is not the context of his instructions in of 1 Timothy chapter 2.. In the words of Thomas B. Edgar, professor of New Testament at Capital Bible Seminary: “Any negative meaning for the practices prohibited in 1 Timothy 2:12 is highly improbable in the context. The passage concerns the relationship between men and women, not some practice wrong in itself. Only women are prohibited from the practice, which implies it is acceptable for men; therefore it is not some practice such as domineering teaching which is wrong for both men and women” (Edgar, Contextualized Interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12: An Analysis, p. 7)
Sixth, when Paul forbids women to “teach or have authority over men,” he does not intend to communicate if Elders of the Lord’s church give permission for women to have leadership authority over a congregation such would be acceptable to the Lord. Elders do not have the right to counteract God’s instructions by granting permission to do what inspiration has forbidden. Paul is not intending to provide a “loop hole” around his instructions. Leaders of the church must not place women in teaching positions “over men” because this violates a fundamental principle of male headship, established by God Himself at Creation.
Seventh: the question arises, “What if the elders invite women to exercise leadership authority over men in worship and teaching? The King James Version uses the words “usurp authority” which some have interpreted as forbidding women to force their leadership over men, but leaving room for them to take on such a role if the male members of the congregation invite them to do so. Recent editions of the New International Version use the words “assume authority” which some have interpreted in a similar way. However, Dictionary.com defines “assume” as: ”to take over the duties or responsibilities of.” One does not have to force his/her way upon others when “assuming” a leadership role in the world of commerce and industry. An employee may be invited to take on a new post with greater responsibilities and greater authority. To “assume” these new duties requires only a willingness to accept an invitation extended by someone “to move up the corporate ladder”. In a similar way, in the church it is possible for women to assume the role of leadership authority in worship and teaching as a result of an invitation from the elders to do so. However, the apostle Paul states that women are not to take on a position that puts them “over man“. Such is clearly forbidden in scripture, even if the Elders give women permission to do so.)
Eighth, those who teach are commanded to do so “with all authority” (Titus 2:15). “The early Christian understanding of teaching, built upon the Jewish understanding, saw teaching as an activity involving personal direction and an exercise of authority. The teacher … laid out what he expected the student to accept…. The teaching occurred within a relationship in which the students acknowledged the teacher’s authority … accompanied by the correction of individuals who were not following the accepted teaching (1 Timothy 4:11; 4:16-5:2; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 2:15; 3:8-11)” — Clark, Men and Women in Christ, p. 196.
Ninth, when Paul declares that “Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner,” he does not imply that man is in any way superior to woman. He is not casting aspersion on woman’s spiritual abilities to understand and obey the will of God. Indeed, a careful reading of Genesis 3: shows that Eve’s vulnerability to Satan’s temptation was based largely on her desire to become “wise like God” (Genesis 3:5-6). It has been suggested by some that Eve had a fundamental desire to be like God. If this is true, it is a compliment to Eve’s faith and sincere desire to do God’s will in her life. Adam, on the other hand, found it more difficult to have such a tender spiritual heart. He was not deceived by Satan’s temptation; he saw through the devil’s tricky promises. However, he did nothing to help Eve at the very time she needed his spiritual guidance and protection! To Adam’s shame when he failed to exercise his role, Eve fell for Satan’s “line” and was deceived. Paul does not explain why he mentions Eve’s vulnerability to the temptation. He simply states the facts. Perhaps it is not for us to know what if anything is the significance of Eve’s deception since Paul makes no direct application of it in this passage of scripture. However, he makes one point quite clear: Just as Eve was not put in a position of equal or superior spiritual leadership over Adam due to the fact that “Adam was formed first,” so godly women today are not to be put in a position of spiritual authority over men.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28 has been taken out of context and used by a number of those who want women to have the same roles as men in the church and in the home. The comment in the CVCC Statement concerning Galatians 3:26-28 is worthy of commendation: “In Galatians Paul is trying to counter Judaizing teacher who are attempting to force Jewish practices on new Gentile Christians…. It culminates in 3:26 with the statement, “for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Rather than observance of the Jewish law as the vehicle to be in a relationship as a child of God, faith in Christ is the key. It is through baptism that this union with Christ has occurred and the result is clothing oneself with Christ (v. 27), or, put another way, being one with/in Christ (v. 26). Hence the three-fold groupings in the 3:28 have to do with becoming one with Christ through faith and baptism. Galatians 3:28, then, has no bearing on the topic at hand….” (p. 8) Other churchmen who attempt to justify women as leaders of public worship frequently do so by wresting Galatians 3:28 from its natural context. Would that they shared the insight of the Connecticut Valley Church leaders!
Males and females are equally loved by God, equally valuable, equally accessible to His grace in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28-29). Males and females simply have different roles in God’s over-all plan of things. Men are given the role of spiritual leadership in the church and in the home. Women are to be in submission to their leadership. History teaches us that it is always in the best interest of humanity to do things in the way God has appointed.
I want to express my appreciation to the brethren at the Connecticut Valley Church of Christ, Windsor, Connecticut for this opportunity read, reflect upon and review their document, “INVOLVEMENT OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE PUBLIC ASSEMBLIES OF THE CONNECTICUT VALLEY CHURCH OF CHRIST.”
–– David Tarbet
Minister of Personal Evangelism
Church of Christ
New Milford, Connecticut
June 10, 2014
Scripture quotations from the New International Version, 1983 edition
Clark, Stephen B. Man and Woman In Christ. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1980
Edgar, Thomas B. Unpublished essay, “Contextualized Interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12”, Capital Bible Seminary, Lantham, Maryland
Ferguson, Everett. The Early Church and Today. Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2012
Ferguson, Everett. The Church of Christ. A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996
Lewis, Jack. Leadership Questions Confronting the Church. Nasahville: Christian Communication, 1985.
Schreiner, Thomas R. “Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper and Wayne Grudem (ed). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991.