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 gospel?
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 assemblies?
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" began)?
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.