So, I’ve published two posts in the last two days about “women in ministry,” that is, about women serving others. (see “Spiritual Gifts and Women” and “Spiritually Gifted Women“) In those two posts, I suggested that 1) the NT authors did not limit the spiritual gifts that God gives women, and 2) it is proper to use titles such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, shepherd, leader, etc. to refer to women.
Also, in both posts, I pointed out that God gives spiritual gifts so that the one gifted can serve others. So, it would appear that God does intend for such spiritually gifted women to serve others.
In general, these are not the hotly debated issues when it comes to “women in ministry.” Instead, the heated debates surround questions such as:
Should a woman be an elder (pastor/preacher)?
Should a woman be a Bible study teacher?
Should a woman teach men?
Should a woman be a deacon?
Since the modern church tends to view “pastor” and “preacher” as synonymous with “elder,” I’m combined those into one question. In Scripture, though, a “pastor” is one who shepherds, and I’ve already suggested that it is appropriate to refer to a woman who exercises the spiritual gift of shepherding with that title… if a title has to be used. Similarly, a “preacher” in Scripture is one who proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers. Since we are all called to proclaim the gospel (including women), I see no problem with calling a woman a “preacher.”
Once again, though, the problem is the way that the modern church uses those terms, not with the biblical usage of the terms. Thus, in today’s church, when someone says “preacher,” that person is probably referring to an elder who regularly teaches the church. That person is probably not using the term “preacher” to refer to someone who regularly proclaims the gospel to unbelievers. Thus, we have problems due to our use of words, not due to commands or prohibitions in Scripture.
Once we get past those differences in word usage (that is, the difference between the way we generally use words today and the way the words are used in Scripture), we still must deal with certain passages of Scripture that deal with the context of women serving others. Primarily, those passages are 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Others would include 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.
I am not going to exegete those passages at this time. That’s not the purpose of this post or this series. Instead, I would like to point out that differences of interpretation in these passages… and, in fact, those different interpretation are not new. Followers of Jesus Christ has disagreed about the meaning of those passages for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
So, I do not intend to present another interpretation – my interpretation is already out there among the myriad of other interpretation. One of them is correct… perhaps.
But, how do we deal with instances where people disagree over the interpretations of these passages and others like them? What do we do when someone limits the role of women more than we think is correct, or when someone gives more freedom to the service of women than we think is correct?
In my denomination, the rule has been to separate from churches who decide that women can serve in more contexts than the denomination allows. In other denominations, it has been the role to allow any interpretation.
So, what do we do? How do we handle these differences when we meet together with other believers?