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