Moving from one state to another, you learn what makes people tick in comparison to those whom you have left. For those who reside in Indiana, if you want to strike up a heated conversation, one just has to mention “time zone,” and you will receive an earful pro/con on being Eastern time and pro/con to daylight savings time. It would seem that you would have walked into a minefield without knowing it. Likewise, there are topics that are treaded lightly in Evangelicalism for fear of the storm that might arise. Though there are many such topics, women’s roles seem to take top notch, especially in the culture we live in today. It is a discussion that can be lively, we have churches that demand adherence to their viewpoint if you want to be members no questions can be raised on their beliefs, Christian publishing refusing to print from authors who may align on the “other side” of this issue.
After so many years, one would think that this issue has been resolved. Yet, it is still provoking angst amongst many a Christian. In this article we will not be going over the old ground of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. To better understand my position, the egalitarians are busy trying to find new and improved ways to “interpret” the Scriptures towards their “view point” trying hard to find that silver bullet. As one colleague commented, “the burden of proof was on the part of egalitarians to prove that the complementarian position was wrong, because the plain reading of the text is clearly complementarian.”
Instead, I would like to work on the issue that is becoming a wedge between complementarians. The disagreement comes from an idea that as long as the eldership/leadership is male, it is okay for a woman to preach the sermon on Sunday morning. The argument goes like this: The elders are in the position of authority and therefore they may permit a woman to preach. By authorizing this, the elders can sanction a lady to step behind the pulpit, open the text, and preach and yet still maintain that since the elders are in charge, no harm no foul done in light of 1 Timothy 2:12-14.
Before going further, I need to define a few terms: preaching, teaching, and authority. I was at a conference recently where one preacher preached on preaching (I know, a mouthful). He stated that simplistically, preaching is none other than heralding or proclaiming and a preacher of Christ is one who heralds the good news or the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to such a definition he challenged the audience that in this sense we are all to preach, both male and female. Men and women are to proclaim or herald the gospel message to all. I am not aware of a single person who would argue that a woman should not proclaim Jesus to an unrepentive soul no matter the gender. I was also encouraged that he saw that proclaiming the gospel to others of the same gender was of great importance. I am not aware of any complementarian who would state that a woman could not preach evangelistically to nonbelievers or to other women. With regard to whether a woman’s proclamation to a mix gender group of believers, the speaker left it open and never address this issue in light of Paul’s admonition for restraint found in 1 Timothy 2:12-14.
It is when we come to the church setting; the setting of public worship; the gathering of the saints that the problem arises. Should, in this context, a woman be able to preach? The preacher at the conference did not answer the question directly. Indirectly, one may presume that he would have answered this question in the positive. Yet by keeping silent, this may cause more harm to complementarian denominations than good if we do not wrestle and apply Paul’s teaching on this particular question in reference to the restriction that Paul placed on the female gender in public worship found in the above text.
In part two of this series, I will define, ‘teaching,’ and ‘authority,’ and answer the question, “Should a woman be able to preach?”