At a recent group discussion of the topic “Should Women Serve in Ministry” I was struck by something (which I consider to be) odd. When the question was proposed, near the end of the discussion, ”Who of you would be comfortable listening to a woman preacher/pastor/whatever at your church?” My hand went up, as did many others. More of the men raised their hands than anyone else.
“Who would feel uncomfortable?” All but a few women raised their hands.
Why would the women have a problem with it? I can’t speak for them, necessarily, but I can lay out my point of view – shared by a few others at the discussion as well.
First of all I don’t care who is up on the stage preaching to me – man, woman, black, white, whatever – as long as they are good at it. This is the key that I believe many people miss. Should it matter what type of person is up there, as long as they are doing their job well? I believe it shouldn’t. Think of it this way. If you find a woman who is an unbelievable speaker, has unmatched knowledge and clarity in her interpretation and communication of the Bible, and is more than eager to try to impact the lives of those around her, should she really be anywhere else? I would feel guilty keeping her from the chance to make a difference in the church. Conversely, also, someone shouldn’t be allowed to do what they want to do (in this case, preaching) simply because they want to do it. I’m sorry, but if you are hurting the church with your speaking than you should either drastically improve what you do or (this may seem harsh) do something else. Ask yourself which is more important: fulfilling your own desires to serve in the ministry that way or that the kingdom advances?
It seems to me that there are only a couple possible ways of thinking that could stray one from the above reasoning. The first (and simplest) is that one may be habitually used to male preachers. By this I mean that tradition tends to way so heavy on some people that they can’t see beyond what they’ve grown up with – because they haven’t experienced a female speaker during any recollected part of their past they won’t accept the idea now. If this doesn’t seem silly as a reason by itself it should.
Another possibility is that one could use scripture to support a stance against women in ministry. This is very intriguing, as these things usually are, because what you end up with are Christians (read: God loving people) who differ greatly on their interpretations of scripture. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? ((To me, of course, this brings up many exciting thoughts in regard to postmodernism – this line of thinking, of course, is considered heresy by many and understood on a high degree by none. )) There are many bits of scripture used to attack the allowance of women into ministry, including (but not limited to):
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 1 Timothy 2:11-14
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach… 1 Timothy 3:2
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. Ephesians 5:22-23
Of course there are a few criticisms of these texts that come to mind right away - be it questioning concerning word studies of the original language, purpose of original writing, and so on. That’s without mentioning the numerous leaders in the Old Testament who happened to lead Israel and gain acclaim from the Lord for doing so – Miriam, Deborah, and Phoebe, for instance.
Arguing scripture is a fun time, but usually something I prefer doing in person. So I’ll digress.
Barring and traditional or strict scriptural reasons for having issues with women in ministry, I see one other possibility. That possibility is confusing and blurring the line between the role of the sexes in the home and the role of the sexes in institutions. Many of the ideas that we nice Christian people have grown up with have been those involving the man being the “spiritual leader” of the household. Whether this includes leading prayers or Bible studies in the neighborhood, I don’t know – it probably depends on the person((Please note the degree of humor used here. There is a good amount.)). But let’s say that it means the man does lead the spiritual side of the relationship – which should be a pretty big piece of it – as if leading a dance. The man takes the first step and the woman follows closely behind. The woman is always attentive of the movements of the man, but not only for obedience’s sake. If the two are performing the tango and he begins the waltz, no doubt the woman will smack the man for being so silly. And so she should. Keep that in mind when thinking of the spiritual relationship between a man and a woman.
Now the institutional spirituality doesn’t have the same sort of feeling. In a church the spiritual leader isn’t quite the spiritual leader in as much as dancing with the congregation – the leader (whether pastor/preacher/whatever) is more so showing the people how to dance. There’s a subtle difference that is really worth catching here. If the man in a relationship doesn’t know how to dance (both figuratively and literally – keep that in mind guys) the woman must take over and then there is a problem. She doesn’t want to take over there. But in a classroom setting (read: institution) the teacher’s gender doesn’t carry so much weight. I’ve seen dance classes taught by both a man and a woman, individually and together. While both may do it differently and from a slightly different perspective this doesn’t necessarily deter from my growth as a dancer (read: Christian). The effectiveness of the teacher is solely dependant on their capability in both dancing and relating that dancing to their subject.
What would you say to a man having issues with being taught to dance by a woman, or a woman with the same problem? You would tell them to suck it up, of course. That the sex of the teacher has nothing to do with it. Focus on the dancing.
Can it really be as simple as that?