The Role of Women in the Church

With the advent of the feminist movement, the role of women in
all parts of society has come under increasing scrutiny. One area of
recent controversy is the role of women in the Christian Church. Some
churches whose traditions and practices are less rigidly tied to
Biblical doctrines have begun placing women in leadership positions
such as pastor or teacher. Other churches which interpret the Bible
more literally have been slow to adopt such changes. Much of the
confusion is based on attempts to interpret scriptures pertaining to
women. In this essay, we will use the Bible to underezd the role of
women in the church of the first century and apply that underezding
to the church of the twentieth century.

Many people would dispute the Bible's relevance to contemporary
thought in general, and in particular to the role of women in worship.
If the Bible were not written under divine inspiration, a person or
practice is not bound by its teachings. He or she can therefor pick
and choose whatever corresponds to his/her point of view. However, if
the Bible is of divine inspiration, then a cautious consideration of
passages relevant to a particular issue must be undertaken. Traditions
and customs that have arisen after the Bible was written may thus be
carefully scrutinized. Such practices may or may not prove sound after
comparison with scripture.

Before we discuss specific issues concerning women in worship,
we should consider principles derived from the relationship of Adam
and Eve as described in Genesis chapter one. The Apostle Paul
frequently uses this passage as a guideline when discussing women and
women's issues. Genesis 1 verse 27 states: "So God created man in his
own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he
created them." Most Commentators agree that man and woman are both
equally a reflection of God's image; the word "man" here is used as a
synonym for humanity. Adam and Eve were also given joint dominion over
creation. But the fact that Adam was created before Eve has
significance to Paul and other Old Testament scholars; it signifies
role distinction between the two sexes. The role of the man is
leadership, while the role of woman is as a source of strength and
support. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul states: "For the husband
is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. . ."
(Eph. 5:23) This is an important analogy. If a person wants to
underezd the Christian authority of a man over his wife, he must
consider how Christ demonstrated his leadership as head over the
Church. Primarily, he gave his life for his church, not using force or
coercion for her submission. When considering mens and woman's
ministry in the church, it is important to keep in mind this role
distinction.

Lets examine the public ministry of women in the Church. Two
major passages give specific instructions regarding women during
worship in the letters of the Apostle Paul. These two passages are
used frequently when denying women a public role in church life. The
first is in I Corinthians chapter 14 verses 33 - 35, this passage
commands women to be silent during worship service. Similarly but with
more details, I Timothy 2 verses 8 - 15 not only contains a command to
be silent but also instruction on authority along with a reference to
the fall of Adam and Eve for further explanation. Here is the passage
in its entirety using the NIV (New International Version) Bible
translation:

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger
or disputing. I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and
propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive
clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to
worship God. A women 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. But women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they
continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

A woman raised in the U.S. in this day and age, reading the
letter