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All God's Children

 

All God’s Children…

 

Women’s Leadership and the Church

 

by

 

Sharon and Ray Steelman

 

 

Copyright 1997 by Steelman & Associates, Inc.,

17 Stockton Street, Huntsville, Alabama 35761

 

International Standard Book Number: 978-0-9853931-2-0

 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: Applied For

 

First Published: December 1997 Printed in the United States of America

 

Second publishing: May 2012

 

Published on Shakespir

 

 

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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical or electronic means whatsoever, including any retrieval systems or information storage systems, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in an article, without prior permission in writing from Sharon or Ray Steelman.

 

Shakespir Edition

 

This e-book is licensed for your personal exploration and enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.

 

 

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Contents

Dedication

Setting the Stage

Preface from Sharon

Preface from Ray

In the Beginning

Exploring the Scriptures

Women in Biblical Times

Christ’s Ministry and Women

The Power of Christ’s Blood

The First Century Church

Women Leadership in the Early Church

Women Leadership is Eliminated

Paul’s Comments in First Timothy

Early Church Leader’s Attitude Toward Women

The Corinthian Questions

Women and Silence in the Church

Conclusion

Bibliography

Women and the Restoration Movement

Bibliography

About the Authors

 

 

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Dedication

 

This publication is dedicated to our daughters, Natalie Brynne Hasley, Bethany Shanel Dean, and Sophia Steelman, our granddaughter, whom we love with all our hearts and believe that God never intended for them to be second-class Christians.

 

 

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Setting the Stage

 

“The Holy Scripture cannot err and the decrees therein contained are absolutely true and inviolable. But its expounders and interpreters are liable to err in many ways.” … “The Holy Bible can never speak untruth—-whenever its true meaning is understood.” Galileo Galilei

 

Both Sharon and Ray Steelman are ongoing Bible Students. They have many books and publications to their credit from a wide variety of subjects. These subjects range from playing the harmonica, to poetry, to history and a joke book.

 

This book was written because of discrepancies that they discovered in the modern day Church practices that they believe are contrary to those of the first century Church. These discoveries were made after careful examination of the Bible and exploration of the “original languages” to see what the scriptures really said. The authors determined that, in their opinions, the modern day role of women in Christianity has been determined more by man’s distortion and misinterpretation of the scriptures than by God’s intent.

 

This book is thought provoking and disturbing to the Christian who bases his/her beliefs on the traditions of mankind rather than an honest and open study of the Bible. In reading this book, one must remember that “blind acceptance breeds a deadly type of conformity.”

 

 

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Preface

 

From Sharon

 

What is truth? According to Webster’s 21st Century Dictionary of the English language, truth is “that which is actually so.” Is truth, therefore, “truth” or less of the truth because of the one proclaiming it to be so? Does a woman, a child or for that matter a non-believer who reads God’s Word, whether in silent contemplation or by vocalization, negate or confirm the “truth?”

 

Ephesians 2:14 reads:

“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us having abolished in his flesh enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so malting peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, to them that were nigh.”

 

In Ephesians 2:14, the KJV has a reference to Galatians 3:28. In paraphrasing Galatians 3:28, the reader is told that “All are the same in Christ. There is no difference between male and female.” How much more plain could that be? As far as Christian responsibilities, obligations and duties, there should be no distinction between a Christian man or a Christian woman. Women have been given more through Christ than men. The blood of Christ liberated women forever! How much more praise we should give God for so much more grace has been extended to us (women)! Praise Him! Please read the parable of the forgiven debtor in Luke 7:41-42. Also, read the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35.

 

The Bible gives us no specific example or commandment of how the Lords Supper should be served or how one should read and study the Bible. In today’s Churches it is a matter of expediency. These duties are not positions of authority but rather positions of servitude. Anyone can serve their God. How about a non-Christian? … or a child? What about the act of baptizing another? Is the act of worship; the deliverance of God’s Word; prayer; the partaking of the Lord’s Supper; or baptism confirmed by the one by whom the act is performed? Can it be negated by the one who delivers the message or assists another in an act of worship? Certainly not!

 

Since the beginning of time, mankind has used the Bible to justify persecutions, wars and all types of perverted behavior. During the Civil War the old Southern patriots slammed their Bibles on the debate tables as proof that God approved of one human being owning another. Just as ludicrous, the Biblical traditionalists are today waving their Bibles high in the air as proof that women should also be restrained with chains of bondage in their pursuits to wholly and completely use their talents to worship their Lord.

 

The purpose of this book is to stimulate the reader to open the Bible and study it with hunger for the truth. Education is a continuing dialogue, and a dialogue assumes, in the nature of the case, different points of view. This paper sheds whole new light on a long-debated issue, the woman’s role in the church. In Christian love, Ray and I share our personal discoveries pertaining to this sensitive issue and the “truth” as we understand it.

 

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” KJV Amos 3:3

 

I sought to hear the voice of God

And climbed the topmost steeple,

But God declared, “Go down again

- I dwell among the people.”

- John Henry Newman

 

Sharon Brown Steelman

 

 

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From Ray

 

All of my life I have known that women were to be silent in the church. Oh, they could sit in the pews and sing those grand old hymnals but that was that! They were not to openly participate in any other way in the worship services.

 

I remember when I was baptized at the age of twelve that the following Sunday I was quickly removed by the Church leadership from my Sunday school class since that class was taught by a woman. I was immediately placed in a class that had a male teacher. I remember thinking how strange that was since that dear lady who had read the Bible to me each Sunday; had studied with me; taught me about God; and led me to the very act of baptism was, suddenly, no longer worthy to teach me!

 

Over the years I accepted the woman’s limited role in church as being a commandment from God. Eve was deceived, then cursed…end of story! Women were forever to be in total subjection and never “usurp” religious authority over a man. They could serve, and were commanded to serve, but not in the same way that a man serves his God. The Church had its own pecking order and the woman was forever ranked below every Christian male in God’s kingdom.

 

I remember learning the 23rd and 100th Psalm, not in Sunday school, but at the feet of my third grade public school teacher, Mrs. Forbes. Almost everything I knew about the Bible during my formative years I learned from my mother and grandmother, two fine Christian ladies. Christian women had such a great influence on my life and the lives of others yet they could not publicly and fully share the talents God had bestowed upon them.

 

As recently as a few years ago, I believed that woman, religiously, should be in total subjection…no if’s, and’s or but’s! Then a funny thing happened…I began to seriously study God’s word. Suddenly, the more that I studied, the more I began to question the things that I had been taught throughout the years pertaining to the woman’s role in the church. The more that I studied, the more that I realized, that the Church that I read about in the Bible did not resemble, in certain aspects, the Church that I attended each Sunday. The most glaring discrepancy was that of the woman’s role.

 

I noticed that women in the first century Church were very active and served in religious leadership positions. Not only were they active but the scriptures told me that they preached, served as deaconesses and elders, headed house churches, served as disciples and apostles, and worshipped on an equal status with the men. The women in the early church were much more liberated as children of God than were our 21st century sisters. What happened? Was our doctrine at fault? The more that I studied the more apparent it became that something happened since the first century A.D. to alter the authority of women to serve as leaders in the church.

 

The event that stimulated me to devote the hundreds of hours of research necessary to write this paper happened during a Wednesday night Bible study class. The little girls that were in attendance on that night were to read Bible verses to some of the adults. This would help inspire, and motivate them and to build their personal confidence. All the girls were lower elementary age and none were baptized. When it became time for the children to read the scriptures, the men scurried from the room leaving only the women. The men were so afraid that one of these precious little children would read from God’s Holy Scriptures in their presence. When questioned about their actions, it was stated that it was unscriptural for these little girls to read in a male member’s presence. Would Christ have been that bigoted? Would Christ have run from the room with his hands over his ears afraid that one of these beloved children would read the Word of God in His presence? Christ stated that:

 

“Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” (Mark 9:37)

 

What would Christ have said about one who rejected these children? The fact was these children were not rebuffed because they were children but instead because they were females! How twisted our doctrine had become! Christ did not teach this, God did not intend this, and the scriptures did not support this!

 

The purpose of this paper is to challenge the reader to study the scriptures in more detail. Learning makes the wise wiser and reveals the foolish more foolish. Our system fails not because of what the Bible says but instead because of our lack of study and because of man’s misinterpretation and distortion of what the Bible says.

 

II Timothy 2:15 tells us:

 

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)

 

This passage challenges us to study so that we are pleasing to God. I want to challenge you to study so that you know why you believe what you believe. To be truly wise one should never stop asking questions.

 

I know in my heart that God did not create a system with second-class Christians. I believe this system was created by man’s petty prejudices and traditional customs. I believe that God’s love and mercy will always transcend any of man’s futile religious beliefs. I believe that God’s Word, when rightly divided, will substantiate the fact that Christ’s blood liberated all Christians and His love is the same for all of His children.

 

This paper was not written to destroy anyone’s faith, attack the Bible’s credibility, or challenge anyone’s doctrine. This research is compiled into this paper in the spirit of brotherly love (Eph. 4:15) to inspire the reader to further study and more accurately decipher the scriptures. Proverbs 1:5 tells us that a wise man will hear and will increase in learning. This writing is an attempt by two laymen to “boldly make known the mystery of the Gospel (Eph. 6:19).”

 

In the Bibliography at the close of this paper is found sources of materials that are excellent reading for the Christian who wants to explore this subject in more detail. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “What you bring away from the Bible depends on what you carry to it.” Knowledge begets knowledge. The Bible is like a microscope. It is to be looked through to see what is not visible by looking at it. This paper is a very brief summary to magnify the role of women in church leadership. The books and articles in the Bibliography investigate the subject in the depth that it deserves.

 

Sharon and I would like to state that we have never attended any worship services, meetings, seminars or workshops of our “so called” liberal religious brothers sometimes sarcastically referred to as “change agents.” We also have never read any material published by these liberal sects. The thoughts contained in this paper are the result of our private and personal discoveries during the study of the King James Bible and other carefully selected resources. Throughout this paper, we have tried to use soft words to address hard arguments (paraphrase of Col. 4:6). The results contained herein are our private conclusions.

 

Ray Steelman

 

 

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All God’s Children

 

Women’s Leadership and the Church

In the Beginning

 

 

At least eight times in the New Testament the Apostle Paul states that one person was responsible for the fall of mankind, and twice he named that person as Adam (Rom. 5:14; I Tim. 2:14). In Genesis 5:2, God specifically called both man and woman Adam so one could surmise that Paul’s attributing the fall of mankind to “Adam” actually meant both Adam and Eve. The right-wing religious conservatives have used this explanation for centuries as an argument to avoid passages that placed “the original sin” squarely on Adam’s, not Eve’s shoulders. Paul proclaimed in I Timothy 2:14, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” This passage tells us without question that Eve was tricked by the subtle beast while Adam, having been forewarned by God (Gen. 2:17), knew exactly what he was doing! “Adam was the clear-headed one who could have stopped the affair (the fall). All he had to say was, “Satan! Get out of my garden, and Eve, don’t ever let me catch you talking to that snake again!” But he did not! Who was responsible for sin? The Bible says Adam was! (Source: Trombley, p. 101)

 

In Genesis 3:13, when confronted by God, Eve was honest and straightforward and replied, “the serpent beguiled me and I did eat.” Adam, on the other hand, blamed Eve, failed to be responsible for his actions and indirectly pointed an accusing finger directly at God with the statement “the woman whom ‘thou’ gavest to be with me” (Gen. 3:12). What he really meant was “God, this would not have happened if you had not given that woman to me!” Regardless of who committed the original sin, Eve since the very beginning of time has been a scapegoat and Genesis chapter 3 has been the foundation used by men and organized religion to force women into total submissiveness and domination by males (Gen. 3:16).

 

If we believe in the Bible, then we must believe that a curse was placed by God on Eve in Genesis 3:16. This resulted in four big changes in Eve’s life. First her pain was greatly increased in childbearing; second, with pain she would give birth to children; third, her desire would be for her husband; and last, her husband would rule over her. As a punishment for the part she played in the fall of mankind, Eve was placed into a position of permanent inferiority…or was she?

 

For centuries, Biblical scholars have debated the first few chapters of Genesis. There are hundreds of theories pertaining to the interpretation of these scriptures. Many scholars debate the true meaning of the original Hebrew language while some textural experts go as far as stating that the creation account (there were actually two different accounts – Gen. 1:27 and Gen. 2:22) originated from four separate sources, the “J-E-P-D documents.” Some say that when these were compiled into one source, Genesis, it was deliberately slanted toward male domination. To delve into a detailed exploration of the book of Genesis is far beyond the scope of this text. We must believe that “all scripture is given by the inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). That is the root of the Christian faith that is proclaimed in Hebrews chapter 11 and embedded deep within the heart of every Christian. So, for the purpose of this study, we will not challenge the book of Genesis. Instead we will accept it exactly as it is written by the inspiration and direction of God. We believe completely that the curse placed on Eve was certainly a critical part of the divine plan of the Lord.

 

So Eve was cursed…The next question that we must ask ourselves is, “Did Christ’s blood have the power to remove the curse placed upon Eve and forever liberate the female Christian?” Of course it did! During the course of this study we will prove that that is exactly what happened.

 

 

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Exploring the Scriptures

 

When studying the Bible we must always evaluate a passage based on the following:

 

Historical Review – We must evaluate each passage according to the time, the place and the cultural conditions that surrounded the writing.

 

Original Language – In interpreting scripture we must return to the original language and decipher the actual definition, grammatical structure and intent of the author.

 

Textural evaluation – When reading one’s Bible, a person must always cross reference words and phrases comparing them to other scriptures and early writings to understand how particular words and phrases were used and translated elsewhere.

 

We must remember that the actual meaning of a text is what it conveyed to the people to whom it was originally written in that particular time and culture. The text’s significance is how it applies to our particular cultural situation today. We must also keep in mind that the command of the scripture is absolute but culture is relative. What we as Christians must do is “absolute” but how a Christian does it is culturally relative. When studying our Bibles we should use the clear passages to assist in interpreting the unclear ones. In exploring the woman’s role in the Church of the twenty-first century, we will apply the three principles above to see what the scriptures actually say to us today.

 

 

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Women in Biblical Times

 

In Biblical times social status was determined by:

 

Religious background (Jew or Greek)

 

Special status (slave or free)

 

Gender (male or female)

 

Women had had the greatest curse possible placed upon them. They were cursed directly by God. Since the very beginning of time, women were placed in total subjugation. They were considered to be chattel…simple property along with cattle and household pets. Jewish women were subject to their husband’s whims and wishes. Women were not to be educated, allowed to own real estate or personal property. They enjoyed lowly status in the synagogue for according to the Jewish Talmud, it was “better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman.”

 

A woman could not divorce her husband, while the husband could divorce any of his wives through a simple written statement. A woman could be the wife of only one man, while a man could have many wives and concubines. There is no wonder that Christ caused such an uproar when he outstretched his arms and openly welcomed women into his ministry. He not only had numerous dedicated women disciples and followers, Christ had an open and encouraging attitude toward these women. This was in complete contrast with the woman’s demeaning social position in the community and that alone was enough to get him crucified!

 

Note: “Some early teachers carried this idea (woman’s inferiority) into an ontological structure and claimed that women were actually created as serving creatures. John Calvin, a brilliant Reformation theologian, commented on I Tim 2:12 by saying “Women are by nature born to obey men.” What he implied was, “Men are by nature born to govern and control women.” Martin Luther expressed a similar attitude. (Source: Trombley, p. 62)

 

The Greeks, like the Jews, had a whole society that was demeaning toward women. The philosophers of this ancient civilization, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Zeno, Sophocles and others felt that no good could be found in a woman. These Stoic philosophers influenced the thinking of both the Greek and Roman societies for multiple generations. They believed in the total deprecation of women. “The Greeks believed that women existed either to produce sons for their husbands or to provide sexual pleasures as courtesans. Women could not aspire to become teachers or philosophers.” (Source: Pomeroy, pp. 93-148)

 

The Greeks along with Jews were a double indictment against the rights and freedom of women. “Especially offensive in first-century society were women teachers.” (Source: Sigoutos & Shank, pp. 283-295)

 

 

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Christ’s Ministry and Women

 

As we investigate the four gospels, nowhere is Christ critical, demeaning, or negative toward women. In fact, on every occasion He was exactly the opposite. He publicly associated with them and uplifted their social status. This must have made both the Jews and Greeks furious! Was Christ trying to tell us something by his actions? Was he preparing mankind for the liberation of all Christians as stated by Paul in Gal 3:28? Christ never criticized women for violating cultural, religious, or traditional taboos. Christ refused to follow the century old traditions of man and keep women restrained by the religious bondage of his time. Christ accepted women as individual beings capable of making their own choices and being responsible for their own salvation.

 

A great example of Jesus’ attitude toward women is illustrated in Luke 10:38-42. When Martha rebuked Mary for not helping her, Christ did not remind Mary that her proper role was that of serving men. Instead Christ let it be known that the important thing for Mary was at his feet learning the word of God. Christ’s message was clear!

 

Another example is found in John 12:1-7. Again in the home of Mary and Martha, the passages find “Martha serving.” Mary not only stayed in the room with the men while the men were eating but also loosed her hair and washed Jesus’ feet with a bottle of expensive perfume. If a Jewish woman let her hair hang down naturally, she was considered uncovered, and if this happened in public, it was grounds for divorce under Jewish law. Mary violated two of the strictest rabbinical laws, yet Jesus said nothing. Christ even reprimanded those who tried to correct Mary. How would Christ feel about the restrictions placed on women in our worship services today?

 

Other examples of Christ's open and supporting attitude toward women are found in Luke 11:27-28; Matthew 19:3-10; Mark 10:11-12; Matthew 22:23-30; Luke 7:36- 50; John 4: 7-30; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 7:11-17; and so on. Jesus often used women to illustrate his eternal lessons and truths as found in Luke 21:1-4 and many other scriptures. Christ, through his actions, stripped away centuries of male domination and religious restrictions, yet today in Christ's Church, the Jewish and Greek traditions of bigotry and male domination still rule! "In the context of the Judaism of his day, Jesus emerged as a unique, radical reformer of the widely-held attitudes toward women and their role in society." (Source: Witherington, p. 126)

 

Looking further at Christ’s ministry we see the following:

 

Jesus had women disciples (Mark 15:40-41; Matt 27:55-56). (It is interesting to note that the word used for the women who served Jesus is “diakoneo,” the basic word for “deacon” and it honestly describes the women that Jesus counted as his disciples.)

 

The women stood beside Jesus at the cross (Matt. 26:56; John 19:25) “all the disciples left him and fled”…“except the women.”

 

Jesus chose women evangelists to take the message of his resurrection to his hiding male disciples (Matt. 28:1-8).

 

The angel entrusted to the women to tell the disciples (Mark 16:7).

 

Christ met the women first and told them to take the word of His resurrection to his brethren (Matt. 28:9-10). Christ purposely chose women first to carry the good news of the most important event in history!

 

 

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The Power of Christ’s Blood

 

Christ, through his blood, closed the door to the Old Covenant and ushered in a New Covenant wherein there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male or female, only oneness in Christ (Gal. 3:28). This verse (Gal. 3:28) is the most explosive passage in the Bible! This is the Declaration of Independence and The Emancipation Proclamation for equality among Christians: It is as binding today as it was then. Through Christ, all Christians, regardless of their gender or social status, share in the one Spirit (I Cor. 12:13) who blesses all with gifts for the ministry (I Cor. 12:7).

 

“Our brethren…overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11).

 

“The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to a place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time out of the serpent’s reach” (Rev. 12:14).

 

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

 

Is it not ironic that Christ selected “the woman” in Revelation 12 to symbolize His Church? The “serpent” of Genesis 3 is the “dragon” of Revelation 12. The woman is victorious, which makes the dragon furious and filled with wrath against the woman. Since he (the Devil) failed, his assault becomes not only an attempt to destroy the child (Christ) but also the woman.

 

“Ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:13-14) Not only did this refer to Jew and Gentile, bond or free, but does it not also refer to male and female?

 

“…who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son in whom we have redemption through his blood” (Col. 1:13-14).

 

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).

 

Did Christ’s blood have the power to remove Eve’s curse? It most certainly did! Did Christ’s blood free women to openly worship and serve God in his kingdom? Absolutely!

 

 

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The First Century Church

 

The first century Church was an exciting place. Christians, many of whom had witnessed Christ’s miracles, crucifixion and resurrection, were now entrusted with the church, Christ’s kingdom on earth. The blood of Christ had liberated all men and women and all were now one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Women wasted no time in assuming leadership positions in the new church.

 

“In the last days…your daughters shall prophesy…even my bond slaves, both men and women” (Acts 2:17-18) (Joel 2:28-32).

 

Prophesying is defined in I Cor. 11:3-4 “He that prophesieth, speaketh unto (Anthropois) mankind to edification and exhortation, and comfort..he that prophesieth, edifieth the church.” By definition prophesying was preaching.

 

“Nothing in Paul’s epistles suggests that preaching and teaching, which Paul seems to associate with prophecy, are gender-specific gifts.” (Source: Witherington, pp. 92-96)

God said women can and should prophesy (I Cor. 11:3-5).

 

Below are examples of women prophesying and being added to the church:

 

Acts 1:14 “they all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary…”

Acts 2:1 “all (including women) with one accord in one place”

Acts 2:4 “they were all (including women) filled with the Holy Ghost and…spoke in tongues as the spirit gave them utterance”

Note: “Women’s participation in the Pentecost event had radical and far reaching implications. Not only did women receive Christ’s commission as credible witnesses to the resurrection, but at Pentecost, they also received the Spirit’s power to carry out this central community responsibility. This meant that women had received the same foundational qualifications for ministry as men in the New Testament church.” (Source: Jewett, p. 62)

 

Acts 2:17 “and your daughters shall prophesy”

 

Acts 5:14 Women were added to the church.

 

Acts 21:9 Phillip’s four daughters were prophetesses.

 

Rev. 2:20-23 Jezebel was accepted as a prophetess by the church at Thyatira.

 

Note: The church at Thyatira was not condemned because they had a prophetess, but rather it was condemned for Jezebel’s false teachings. If women were not supposed to preach to men, then this would have been the perfect place for the Lord to have made it known. Jesus could have rebuked Jezebel, but instead gave her an opportunity to repent, not of the act of preaching, but instead of her immorality and error!

 

There is more than enough proof in the New Testament to confirm that the first century church had women preachers. Not women who preached only to other women but rather women who held leadership positions as open ministers of God’s word.

 

Secular history reinforces the fact that women were very active and held leadership positions in the early church. The author, W.M. Ramsay, spent many years pouring over the writings of the early church historians. In his book, The Church in the Roman Empire, he states that without a doubt in the early Christian Church women had full equality with men. John Chrysostom (337-407), Origen of Alexandria (185- 253), Jerome (340-419), Hatto of Vercelli (924-961), Theophylack (1050-1108) and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) all spoke in their writings of the leadership positions women held in the early church. This reinforces the fact that women were strong leaders in the early church since many of the above writers were not at all favorable toward women.

 

“Christian art from the 1st and 2nd centuries depicts women performing various ministerial activities-administering the Lord’s Supper, teaching, preaching, baptizing, caring for the physical needs of the congregation and leading in public prayers. Tombstone epitaphs also substantiate the presence of women elders in the early church.” (Source: Grentz, pp. 39 – 40)

 

We know that Paul preached to both men and women. In chapter 16 of Romans, Paul mentions several women who were active in the leadership of the first century church. They are as follows:

 

16:1 Phoebe – a deaconess of the church in Cenchrea

 

16:3 Priscilla – Paul calls her “my fellow worker”

 

and

 

Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa & Persis – hard working gospel laborers

 

16:7 Junia – a female apostle said by Paul to be “outstanding among the apostles”

Note: There are those who say that Junia could be Junias (masculine). The writings of early church historians will verify the fact that Junia was never considered to be masculine. It was the commentator Aegidus of Rome (1245-1316) who first twisted the idea that Junia could have been a man. Until that time Junia was known by all to be a woman.

 

Paul in the 16th chapter of Romans closes this letter by greeting twenty-eight different early church leaders, ten of whom are women!

 

Other early female church leaders found in the scriptures are:

 

Chloe – a house church leader (I Cor. 1:11)

 

Mary (Mark’s mother) – a house church leader (Acts 12:12)

 

Note: Many say that I Timothy Chapter 3 excludes women as deacons/elders, however, in both cases above, the house churches were identified by the name of a female. It was customary to identify a house church by the name of its chief elder (verified in Philemon 1:2). Could it be that both Chloe and Mary were elders in these early house churches?

 

Elect lady – (II John 1) – Most scholars agree that the term “elect lady” was not referring to the church but rather a lady overseer of a church. Clement of Alexandria during the second century reinforced the fact that the “elect lady” was indeed a woman church officer.

 

Lydia – a house church leader (Acts 16:14-15, 40)

 

Nympha of Laodicea – a house church leader (Col. 4:15)

 

Apphia – assisted Archippus as a house church leader (Philemon vs. 2)

 

Priscilla – she and her husband conducted a church in their house (I Cor. 16:19)

 

Note: The customary way of addressing a husband and wife was to always address the husband’s name first. However, Priscilla was oftentimes mentioned first which indicates that perhaps she was the chief teacher of the two (Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19, Acts 18:18, 26).

 

Were women active in the early church? Emphatically Yes! By reading Acts 8:3; 9:1-2, we see that women Christians suffered persecutions right along side the men.” This should imply to Luke’s readers that women were significant enough in number and/or importance to “the cause” that Saul did not think he could stop the movement without taking women as well as men prisoners.” (Source: Witherington, p. 144)

 

Were women silent in the early church? Of course not! Did women fill positions of leadership over men? Certainly! If so then we must explain the passages that for centuries have maintained the male domination found in organized religion.

 

 

  • * *

 

 

Women Leadership in the Early Church

 

 

Under Jewish law, women were not only excluded from religious practices but they were also excluded from learning. This was based, as we have already discussed, upon Genesis Chapter 3 as well as the rabbi’s clumsy interpretation of the scriptures beginning with Zechariah 12:12. This referred to “their wives apart” and resulted in the silencing and separation of women in worship activities. Were women, like men, not made in the image of God? Yes, according to I Cor. 11:2-12 and Genesis 1:27. The traditional woman’s role in the church has been determined by Jewish tradition not by God’s intent! The Bible warns us repeatedly about “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” yet these misdirected practices still continue in Christ’s Church today (Matt. 15:3, Mark 7:3-9).

 

Just as the old rabbi’s flimsy interpretation of Zechariah 12, our New Testament fathers based worship practices on a misunderstanding of the author’s original intent of a few passages. To truly understand these passages we must go back to the original language.

 

It was stated earlier in this writing that Phoebe was a deacon in the Church (Rom. 16:1). It was also stated that the female church leaders were probably chief elders in churches under their direction. Either of the above would be a violation of I Timothy chapter 3. In I Timothy chapter 3, the passages, on first examination, seem to indicate that an elder and deacon can only be a man. In Romans 16:2, Paul states that Phoebe was a ruler (prostatis) of many. The word “prostatis” in the original language meant “a patroness” or protectoress…a woman set over others.” In I Tim. 3:1, the statement, “If a man (tis) desires the office…” ’tis’ is a neuter word…not a word referring to males only. The word for males only was “ander” not “tis.” Therefore, “tis” is a neuter word meaning “if a male or female desires the office!” The early church fathers understood this. That is why the early church had female deaconesses and elders!

 

Church history affirms the leadership of women in the early church. The Western church ordained women in leadership positions well into the second century, while the eastern church ordained women continuing into the late 4th century. In 325, the Council in Nicea numbered women deacons along with the clergy. The council of Chalcedon in 451 went as far as listing the requirements for women deacons.

 

The Roman orator, Pliny the younger, wrote of the strength of the women deacons in the early Christian church. The Didascalia, a third century historical writing, tells of the women deacons teaching the newly baptized the ways of Christianity. During the Apostolic Age, women were deaconesses, just as the men were deacons (Rom. 16:1-2, I Tim. 3:12). For the first 500 years of the church women were not silent or subordinate but instead were dynamic leaders in the church.

 

 

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Women Leadership is Eliminated

 

In Titus 1:14, Paul warned Titus to guard against Jewish fables and commandments. The old Jewish traditions and customs as they relate to women began slowly creeping back into the Christian Church beginning in the second century. By the close of the Council of Orange in 441, women’s ministries and leadership roles had almost been obliterated. The Council decreed that women could no longer be ordinated as deaconesses. Sixteen years later the Christian church had reverted back completely to the traditions of the Jewish elders. It was then during the Council of Orleans that the decree went out, “no longer shall the blessing of women deaconesses be given, because of the weakness of the sex.” (This is almost a direct quote from Socrates [470-399 BC], the Greek Philosopher.) A study of church history will show that by this time the moral and spiritual apostasy that Paul warned about in I Timothy chapter 4 was rampant. Many practices of the 4th century church would not have been recognized by Paul and the early apostles. One of them was the elimination of the leadership role of the female Christian.

 

 

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Paul’s Comments in First Timothy

 

In 1st Timothy chapter 3 and 5:17-19, Paul outlined in detail the office of the presbyter (elder). “After completing his list of qualifications for bishops and deacons (I Tim. 3:1-10), he continued by including the women when he said, “qunaikas hosautos” or “women likewise.” Hosautos links the entire list of qualifications into one single theme. It links the deacons with the bishops in verse 8 and then link them to women in verse 11. The usual translation for presbyter (elder) is “older men” and “older women” but the Greek word is the same one used for elders everywhere. If consistency is to be maintained, then “presbutero” and “presbuteras” should be translated as men presbyters and women presbyters. A more nearly correct translation would be, “Do not sharply rebuke a male presbyter, but appeal to him as a father, to the young men as brothers, women presbyters as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” (Source: Trombley, p. 198)

 

We note in I Tim. 3:2 (elders) and 3:12 (deacons) that these passages indicate the “husband of one wife” as a qualification for leadership. Does this eliminate women? As discussed earlier in this paper, polygamy was the common practice among the men. The women, on the other hand, could have only one husband. Paul saw the necessity of detailing that the elders and deacons could not be chosen from those men who had more than one wife. Since women could only have one husband, it was not necessary to even mention this in reference to the women. These scriptures do not eliminate women from filling these offices.

 

The strongest comment made by Paul which for centuries has kept women from the pulpit is I Tim. 2:12. When studying I Timothy, we must remember that this was a private letter written to Timothy, the young evangelist, informing him how to deal with problems that were unique to that one congregation, the congregation in Ephesus. The advice regarding women was not intended to establish conduct and rules of procedure for church congregations forever, but instead it was meant to address the circumstances of that particular first-century congregation. I Tim. 2:12 reads as follows:

 

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

 

Oh, the centuries of talents that have been lost as a result of the misinterpretation of this scripture! Who knows how many souls could have been saved if those precious female abilities could have been unleashed! Let us again return to the intent of the writer in the original language.

 

In the Greek language (Paul wrote in a dialect of the Greek language called “Koine”), the word “authentein” was translated as “usurp authority.” Why would Paul disallow women to preach or lead in the church when he previously allowed them to do so?

 

Authentein is only found in this one passage (I Tim. 2:12) in the Bible. It was a rare word considered to be slang, rough, rude or even vulgar. In 1611, the word was translated as “usurp authority” during the formation of the King James Bible. However, “authentein” never had this usage until well after the third century when the organized movement was underway to expel women for church leadership. The correct word would have been “exousia.” Exousia means exactly what is implied in our Bibles today…“to rule over.” Authentein when properly translated meant “an erotic or symbolic death” and never meant to usurp authority. The Ephesian church was troubled with false teachers who espoused a Gnostic type of Jewish Christianity.

 

Gnostics believed that Eve received secret knowledge when she ate of the forbidden tree, therefore, female teachers could relay that knowledge. Paul countered in his teachings that Adam was not deceived but Eve was deceived (1 Tim. 2:14, Rom. 5:14). Instead of receiving knowledge she fell into sin and received a curse, not secret wisdom. The Gnostics also believed that Eve was formed before Adam. Verses 13, 14 & 15 of I Timothy Chapter 2 are Paul’s responses to the Gnostic allegations. Paul’s message in the latter part of I Timothy 2 was meant to counteract the Gnostic influence that was creeping into the early church. “Paul did not intend to establish a blueprint for church structure, but rather to deal with the circumstances that the church (and especially Paul’s young associate Timothy) faced in Ephesus.” (Source: Grenz, p. 125) Paul never intended to ban women forever from church leadership!

 

Who is the ultimate authority (head) in the Church? The Bible tells us that without question Christ is the head of the Church.

 

Eph. 1:22 “and (God) hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church…”

 

Eph. 5:23 “even as Christ is the head of the church…”

 

Col. 1:18 “and he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church…”

 

From the verses above, it is obvious that Christ, not man, is the authority in the church. If Christ is the authority in the church, how can woman usurp authority over the man? She cannot usurp authority that he does not possess.

 

Using I Tim 2:12 to keep a woman in religious subjection is counteractive to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul. Anyone who is called of God is called based upon a love and total commitment to Christ not on the basis of gender. This was explained well by Paul in Galatians 3:28. “The apostle’s main purpose, therefore, was to assist a church suffering from heretical teachings.” (Source: Spencer, p. 81) “In I Timothy 2:12, Paul is not prohibiting women from preaching, nor praying, nor having an edifying authority nor pastoring. He was simply prohibiting them from teaching and using their authority in a destructive way.” (Source: Spencer, p. 88) “Paul’s words about women, sex and marriage were interpreted from the viewpoint of the teachings of Aristotle and of the Stoic philosophers, the viewpoint already held by the Gentile converts to the faith. Paul, the Christian apostle, had the meaning of his words molded to conform to the thoughts of Aristotle, a pagan philosopher.” (Source: Bristow, p. xxii)

Early Church Leader’s Attitude Toward Women

 

 

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Early Church Leader’s Attitude Toward Women

 

Why was it so easy for the church to revert back to the customs of the Greeks and Judaizers and force women into a role of complete religious silence and the status of total domination? We must remember that, unlike today, the scriptures were only available to the church hierarchy and not the common people. The attitudes of most influential early church male leaders toward women was not favorable. Many felt threatened and annoyed by the women leadership and set out to totally eliminate their role in the church. Here are four examples:

 

Tertullian (160-225) – Many of his lectures were anti-women. He blamed Eve for bringing sin and death into the world.

 

Ambrose (340-397) – Believed women were by nature created inferior to men, and that women were created to be under the command of men.

 

Augustin (354-430) – He is said to have been so powerful in the early church that his influence lasted for over 1,000 years. Augustine denied the scriptures (I Cor. 11:2-12 & Gen 1:27) and stated that women were not created in God’s image. By his own edict he banished women from church leadership by proclaiming that she was under the lordship of man; possessed no authority; she could not teach; and she could not be a witness. These statements were entirely Talmudic, certainly not scriptural!

 

Clement (150-215) – Clement stated that marriage was common prostitution and a practice invented by the devil.

 

The Church fathers assumed women to be unclean based on Lev. 12:1-8, 15:16-24. These Old Testament passages state that anyone with a seminal discharge, sore or menstrual cycle was unclean. In their imagination these early male church leaders assumed God was bearded and was a male and anyone representing his kingdom should likewise be masculine, not feminine. How could their thinking have been so distorted? Even today any kindergarten age Christian student knows that God is a spirit has no gender and is neither male nor female!

 

Have you ever wondered what happened after Acts Chapter 28? Did things suddenly run smooth in the same form as was established in Acts 2? Of course that did not happen. The church, God’s kingdom, was attacked from every direction. False teachers and political opportunists saw this growing group of total devotees as a way to enrich themselves both monetarily and through personal power. There were fierce battles for centuries between the early Church leaders. The religious corruption that Paul spoke about in his letters had been a reality since earliest times.

 

To add to the confusion, there were thousands of ancient manuscripts that were used in early church worship services, not the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament that we have today. Who decided which books were canonical and which books were not canonical? The early church fathers fought furiously in support of the writings that advocated their particular point of view. Even the church councils could not agree as to which books were the inspired word of God. At the same time, the church faced the growing internal opposition to the active part that women played in church leadership. As the fighting among the church leaders became more bitter, “Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, published in 367 AD, a list of 27 New Testament books which were accepted as being the source of salvation. He asserted that in these alone were the doctrine of piety recorded.” (Source: Lightfoot, pp. 110-113) These are the same 27 books which are recognized by most churches today and are recorded in the King James Bible.

 

“Athanasius displayed a strong single-mindedness and was incapable of compromise. He believed that anyone who disagreed with him was not only wrong but also evil.” (Source: After Jesus, p. 225) Is it a coincidence that women began to fade from church leadership at the same time that our 27 canonical books were determined? Were manuscripts discarded that detailed the great works of female leadership in the first four centuries of the church? Were books purposely selected that would eliminate women from being active in the church? Common sense tells us that this certainly is a possibility!

 

It is easy to see how an uneducated and uninformed Christian church could be so easily swayed by powerful, all knowing patristic church leaders. These male leaders banned women based not upon the scriptures, but rather upon hatred, sick opinions and personal prejudices. The church membership was led like sheep into centuries of total banishment of women from church leadership. It is understandable how such a thing could have happened to a mostly uneducated church membership during the fourth century. What is totally inexcusable is the fact that today with all our Bibles, concordances, Bible dictionaries, audio and video tapes, encyclopedias, multitude of reference materials and the internet, that the church membership still believes in those biases and that total nonsense. We are each accountable to God for not only what we know but for what we could find out. The scriptures and secular history both reveal that excluding women from the ministry was a sin against humanity and God’s intent for her in the scriptures! It is interesting to note that “when leadership involved the charismatic choice by God of leaders through the gifting of the Holy Spirit women were included. As time passed and leadership was institutionalized, the secular patriarchal culture filtered into the church and women were systematically excluded.” (Source: Boccia, p. 58)

 

 

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The Corinthian Questions

 

To fully investigate the scripture in regard to the woman's role in the church, we must next address the discrepancies that are found in the Corinthian letter. In I Cor. 11:3- 16, Paul speaks of women praying and prophesying openly in the church and even instructs them as to "how" they are to dress while praying and prophesying. ("In some ecstatic cults, possession by deity was symbolized by the casting off of head covering, the loosening and shaking and tossing of the hair and the exchange of clothing between men and women." (Source: Cantarella, p. 127) Paul was trying to prevent the Corinthian Church from being associated with these cults.) In the same statement, Paul equates the women's ministry with that of the men. From these passages, one can easily see that in the early church, neither the male nor the female were silent. In Cor. 14:34-36, Paul does a complete reversal and demands that women be silent. These passages deal specifically with public worship and are an edict for order in the worship activities. "For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace" (I Cor. 14:33). Why was Paul so terribly inconsistent? There are many theories explaining this, a few of which are listed below:

 

Some Biblical experts say this was a local problem and does not apply to any other congregation other than the Corinthian congregation specifically addressed in that epistle.

One theory states that the women were silenced since they were largely uneducated and disrupted services by shouting across the room to their husbands for interpretation (again a local issue only).

Another theory is that all women were not silenced only the “wives.”

 

Some scholars believe that Paul simply changed his mind.

 

There are those who believe that verses 34-36 were not in Paul’s original letter since they are obtrusive and do not seem to blend with the continual thought and natural flow of the epistle. This theory supports the idea that a copyist added verses in 34-36 at a later date since it is a direct contradiction of I Cor. 11:5. Many think that a scribe included these verses as a paraphrase of I Timothy 2:12 and to further support in suppressing the growing influence of women in church leadership.

 

“The evangelical scholar, Gordan Fee, joined many other critical commentators in arguing persuasively that the injunctions concerning women (vs. 34-35) were not from the apostle’s own pen, but was rather an interpretation into the chapter. If this conjecture is correct, we can dispense with the two verses as carrying no authority for the church.” (Source: Grenz, pps. 118,119, also Fee, pp. 699-708.) We do know that at least one ancient codex was discovered which did not include 34-36 in the body of the text but instead placed them in the margin. A number of early manuscripts placed these verses after 14:40. What was the mystery surrounding these two verses?

 

Note: The position of this paper is not to advocate any of the above statements. All reputable modern-day translations include vs. 34-36.

 

Still another theory is that verses 34 and 35 pertained only to the prophet’s wives. Since, in

 

I Cor. 14:29, Paul told the prophets “to judge” each other, then the context of these verses had to pertain to judging prophecies. If so, in continuing the thought, it makes perfect sense that Paul could have been addressing the wives of prophets only.

 

He perhaps was informing these wives not to ask their husbands questions during the time that the husband was prophesying. They were to ask him at home. In other words, they were not to disturb the worship service.

 

The last theory was that Paul compromised the gospel in order not to upset the social structures of his time.

 

In closer examination of I Cor. 14:34-36 the passages state that, "it is not permitted unto them (women) to speak." Paul did not say "God forbids," "I forbid," "It is not proper," etc. This refers directly to the "other law" not the Bible. The other law, of course, was the "old" law, the Jewish oral law! Paul was quoting the Judaizers! He even refers to it in the last two words of verse 34 as "the law." It is not believable that Paul would instruct the churches to forever silence women since this was in complete violation of all that Christ practiced and taught (Luke 10:38-42, John 12:1- 7 and numerous other examples found in the Gospels). “The apostle rested his case (not on the new law but rather, on the old law, the Old Testament as interpreted by the Jewish religious teachers." (Source: Mollenkott, p. 96) Would Christ have stated, "it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (I Cor. 14:35)? Never according to his example and practices!

 

“From Tertullian to Thomas Aquinas, commentators concluded that women could not even sing or pray audibly among men. Although the Reformers relaxed some of these restrictions, as late as the 1890’s, certain Presbyterians still forbade women’s singing in worship.” (Source: Dempsey, p. 155, also Schmidt, p. 126) All this because of slanted interpretation!

 

One of the Old Jewish daily prayers went as follows:

 

“Thank you God that I was not born a Gentile, a slave or… a woman.”

 

In Paul’s pre-Christian days he must have said this prayer thousands of times. It took the power of God for Paul to realize that through the blood of Christ all Christians were equal and enjoyed the same benefits regardless of social position or gender. He made this clear in Gal 3:28 when he counteracted the old Jewish prayer:

 

‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male or female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

In Matthew 15:3 and Mark 7:3 we read Christ’s warnings:

 

“Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?”

 

The traditions that the Lord spoke about were the Jewish oral laws that were handed down from generation to generation…now called the Talmud. These are the same laws that Paul referred to in I Cor. 14:34-36. What was happening in the first century church is the same as is happening with the current day religious groups who keep their women in the dark ages and refuse to liberate them. This was exactly what the Judaizers and old rabbis were doing then. What is surprising is that it has taken 2,000 years for Christians to begin to understand.

 

Paul warned Titus to be careful in “giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men (Tit. 1:14).” The same Judaizers who insisted that Christian men be circumcised (Acts 15) also refused to allow women an active role in leadership positions in the church. They held to their old customs the same as many churches would do today even if they were to learn without a doubt that women were totally liberated by the Lord’s blood! To place doctrine above the truth is no less than idolatry.

 

 

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Women and Silence In the Church

 

‘Tradition demands that we neglect hundreds of Scriptures exhorting believers to raise their voices and praise the Lord in the midst of the congregation (see Psalm 95). Praise is always vocal and at times exuberant and loud (Rev. 19:1-6). If by “silence” (in I Cor. 14:34-35) Paul meant “absolute silence,” then all women must cease all vocal praise.” (Source: Trobley, p. 4) Religious Conservatives will tell you that a woman may sing but not speak since the passages specifically state that “they are not permitted to speak.” This is not consistent with the Greek language since the Greek verb “sigao” means to be quiet not “to speak.” A more reliable interpretation would be that a woman must remain silent in all respects during the church service. If this passage were to be taken literally she could not sing, teach Sunday School, verbally greet visitors or open her mouth in any way inside the church doors. Conservative groups can not have it both ways. Either a woman may speak or otherwise she must be completely silent inside the church during worship services.

 

When studying Eph. 5:18-20, and Col. 3:16, we note that all Christians are to speak to each other in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…teaching each other by singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord. Is the song service a part of the worship service? Certainly! Biblical truths are communicated as much through the song ministry as they are in other parts of the worship service. If women must be silent according to conservative interpretation of I Cor. 14:34-35, then they must be completely silent. As stated earlier, this was the practice in many protestant groups as recently as the late 1800’s.

 

We know that “Paul approved of women praying and prophesying during worship. He insisted that men and women should be together, and that in Christ they are one. But these were new and radical ideas to both Jew and Gentile. In practice, gender equality among Christians led to a disregard for orderliness and courtesy during worship, especially on the part of women who were unaccustomed to listening to public speakers or to participating in public worship. To such women, Paul said, “Hush up.” (Source: Bristow, p. 64) This was not an edict meant to silence women forever in the churches. Instead it was to address a particular problem at a particular congregation during a specific time in history. The women were to be quiet out of reverence for God.

 

A more detailed study of the Greek word “sigao” will reveal that the kind of silence it demanded was silence needed in the midst of disorder and confusion. To silence women completely in the church more appropriate words would have been “phimoo (fim-OH-o)” or “laleo (la-LAY-o).” This is another example of how misinterpretation can lead to disastrous results.

 

 

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Conclusion

 

We know that Christ’s church was not founded on the traditions of men but rather on the Word of God. By reading God’s word, we know without question that women were very active in the early church. Our Bibles tell us that the early church had women preachers (prophetesses) (Acts 21:9; Acts 2:4, 17; Rev. 2:20-23); women were probably elders (Acts 12:12; Acts 16:14-15, 40) and certainly were deacons (Rom. 16:1-2; I Tim. 3:12); women headed house churches (Acts 12:12; I Cor. 1:11; Acts 16:40; Col. 4:15; I Cor. 16:19); and there was at least one woman named in the Bible as an apostle (Rom 16:7) and surely there were others. In Acts 5:14 we see that women were added to the church and there was no distinction in the conditions of membership. We read that the importance of women to the whole church is reflected in Acts 6:1-6. Throughout the Bible we read of the good work of women such as Dorcus; Lydia; Phoebe; Priscilla, and others. Secular history tells us through the writings of the early historians that women were very active in leadership roles in the early church until well into the fourth century. The same historians tell us that since the fourth century the woman’s role in the church has been determined by the influence of Jewish and Greek tradition and customs. “Paul carefully chose his words, deliberately avoiding those Greek terms that, if he had used them, would have communicated to his readers precisely what our English translations imply to us today. Paul’s words instead of communicating a clear message calling for gender equality, have become the primary source of authority for the deprecation of women.” (Source: Bristow, p. xi, xii) “New Testament papers make it evident that the burden of proof regarding the exclusion of women from the office of teaching and ruling within the congregation now lies on those who maintain the exclusion rather than on those who challenge it.” (Source: Packer, p. 296)

 

“In the last two or three decades, many American denominations that are or at one time considered themselves to be evangelical have been ordaining women. Examples include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the American Baptist Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Christian Church (Disciples) and the United Methodist Church, several other evangelical denominations are moving toward a compromise or moderate position on the issue.” (Source: Grenz, pp. 26,32) It is a disgrace that the majority of churches are so slow in doing what the world was wise enough to do already.

 

“to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

 

Throughout the gospels, Christ warns his disciples regarding the practices of the Pharisees, who placed others under their subjection (Mtt. 23:8-12, Mk. 10:42-45, I Tim. 2:5). In I Peter 3:7, Peter declares that men and women are coheirs of the wonderful gift of salvation.

 

Within the walls of the church, should we continue to keep our Christian women silent and in subjection? Should a woman’s gender continue to be a liability impossible to be overcome? Should we, as Christians, continue to maintain an unscriptural caste system in God’s kingdom? Should our churches rethink their position on a woman’s ability to serve her Lord? These are the serious questions that the church of the 21st Century must address. Today’s Bible student is no longer willing to blindly accept doctrine that is not scripturally accurate. As stated earlier, this type of belief leads to a deadly type of conformity and barring God’s mercy, a likely path to Hell. Today’s Christian will use the resources available to seek out and find the truth. In William Shakespeare’s, Henry VI, it is stated that “Ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge the wings wherewith we fly to heaven.” Today’s church must be prepared to properly address God’s role for our Christian sisters. These daughters of the church deserve no less than a status worthy of all God’s children.

 

 

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Bibliography

 

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Buswell, James, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderva)

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Cohen, Abraham, Everyman’s Talmud, (New York, NY: E.P. Dutton, 1949)

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Pocker, James I., “Understanding the Differences,” in Women, Authority and the Bible, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1986)

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Pope, John A, Jr., (Editor in Chief), Mysteries of the Bible, (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest General Books, 1988).

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Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1910).

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Sigountos, James G. and Shank, Myron, “Public Roles for Women in the Pauline Church: A Reappraisal of the Evidence, “Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26, No. 3 (1983)

Spencer, Aida Besancon, Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985)

Trombley, Chiles, Who Said Women Can’t Teach. (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, 1985).

Turner, Rex, Systematic Theology, (Montgomery, AL: Alabama Christian School of Religion, 1989).

Webb, John Daniel, Acts at a Glance, (Petersburg, TN: College of America Press, 1975).

Willmington, Dr. Harold L, Doctrine of Salvation, (Self-published, 1988).

Witherington, Ben, Women in the Ministry of Jesus, (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1984)

Woods, Guy N., A Commentary on the Epistle of James, (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1991).

 

 

  • * *

 

 

Women and the Restoration Movement

“The Rest of the Story” by Sharon and Ray Steelman

 

During a study of the Restoration Movement, one thing becomes very obvious…It is strictly a man’s story. Most of our Christian brothers who author books pertaining to the Church of Christ’s roots and history during the 19th and 20th century conveniently overlook the vast contributions made by women, our silent partners in Christ’s Church. In Bill Humble’s filmstrips and book, The Story of the Restoration, the names of over 133 men are listed as being crucial or at least worthy of mention as contributors to restoring God’s kingdom. In the same publication, not one woman’s name is mentioned as aiding in efforts to restore New Testament Christianity! Where were the women in Christ’s church during that period of time? Was there not one woman since 1801 (over two hundred years) that furnished support worthy of mention in the establishment and growth of the Church of Christ? Were the Christian women simply mindless and worthless pacifists occupying space and politely nodding in approval of all the actions of the all-knowing and powerful brotherhood? Only the most naive and foolish would believe that this was the way things really happened!

 

In most of today’s Churches of Christ, women are kept silent and in subjection, contrary to Christ’s example, New Testament writings, and dissimilar to the practices of the first century church. This also was not the custom in the 19th century Church of Christ as the spiritual foundation stones were carefully selected and positioned while the church searched for restoration and unity. In Alexander Campbell’s own words:

 

‘the Christian religion has been for ages interred

in the rubbish of human invention and tradition.’‘

 

From Christ’s own lips, Christians were forever warned about “transgressing the commandments of God by (man’s) tradition” (Matt. 15:3, Mark 7:3-9). Have the traditions and petty viewpoints of men dictated the distortion of even the history of the restored Church?

 

From the beginning of the Restoration Movement women were active in the Church of Christ. They were particularly active in the embryonic Churches of Christ inspired by Barton W. Stone. In the 19th Century Church of Christ it was not uncommon for women to participate in all aspects of the worship service and in leadership roles. Women were known to regularly testify, which was a common worship practice in the emerging Churches of Christ for nearly a hundred years. They were known to exhort, comfort and edify the Church as preferred by Paul in I Cor. 14:3-5. Women served in leadership positions in the restored Church of Christ and many even preached to the rehabilitated congregations.

 

John Mulkey from Kentucky denounced the tenets of Calvanism and became a radiating center point for the Restoration Movement. What our church historians forgot to tell us was that Nancy Mulkey, John’s daughter, was a preacher in the Church of Christ and one of the very elements that caused the gospel to “spread like fire in dry stubble” throughout the Southeast. It is said that she preached powerful sermons that pricked the hearts of thousands of Christians during the first decade of the 19th Century. The Church historian, J.M. Grant, records the following in his manuscript, “The Reformation in Tennessee:”

 

‘She would arise with zeal on the countenance and fire in her eyes, and with a pathos that showed the depth of her soul, and would pour forth an exhortation lasting from five to fifteen minutes, which neither her father nor brother could equal, and brought tears from every feeling eye.” (Source: Jones, p.55) (Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University)

 

Joseph Thomas (The Life of the Pilgrim Joseph Thomas) heard her preach and stated that “surely she preached by the power of the Holy Ghost. Many felt the weight of her exhortation, and some were mourning under conviction the greater part of the night.” (Source: Thomas, p. 132)

 

Church historians tell us that “Churches of Christ influenced by both Stone and Campbell utilized not only deacons but also deaconesses throughout the first half of the 19th Century. The early church “creed” that John R. Howard drew up in 1848, was designed to explain the “original marks” of the true church, and acknowledged both “deacons and deaconesses.” (Source: Howard, p.226-235) “An ad hoc committee from various Stoneite congregations in Tennessee issued a report in 1835, with recommendations for proper organizational structure in the churches. Among other things, that report suggested, “Let us choose elders, deacons and deaconesses. Let them rule and minister according to the law of God. Let churches submit to their rulers and those who watch over them for good.” (Source: Jones, p. 251)

 

By the mid 1800’s, the influence of Alexander Campbell began to de-emphasize the emotional aspect of faith and emotional worship services. Personal testimonials and participation by women were aggressively discouraged until both had largely disappeared by the beginning of the twentieth century. Women were thought to be more emotional and through the influence of David Lipscomb and other powerful male church leaders, women were systematically phased out of leadership and participation positions in the Church of Christ. “Churches of Christ excluded women for the same reason that they excluded the Holy Spirit: both appeared unmanageable and therefore, threatening to a male “brotherhood” that put a high priority on preserving order and control based on strictly rational considerations.” (Source: Hughes, p.381)

 

“This general opposition to the role of women in the Churches of Christ escalated in 1892, when David Lipscomb launched a consistent and sustained attack on the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions.” (Source: Bailey, p. 79-122) Lipscomb stated that “Every man who encourages women works against God, the church, womanhood, the interest of the family, and against true manhood itself.” (Source: Lipscomb, p. 644) It is ironic that the same bigoted perspective that eliminated women from leadership and worship activities in the fourth century of the early church also eliminated them from the restored church during the 19th Century. That factor was male prejudice and petty distorted biases that were completely contrary to God’s purpose for all Christians as stated in Galatians 3:28.

 

By the beginning of the 20th century, women were forced to worship their God in silence and from positions of submissiveness. Many worked quietly behind the scenes supporting their husbands in their Christian works. One was Charlotte Fall Fanning (1809-1896). Few knew that she was the “C.F.” who authored the stirring articles that appeared in her husband’s (Tolbert Fanning) publication, the Gospel Advocate.

 

Today most members of the Church of Christ have absolutely no knowledge of the fact that women were not always forced to exist in the Church of Christ as second class Christians. The role of women today in Christ’s Church has been determined by pulpit theology and doctrine and not by the scriptures and intent of God.

 

Listed below are the names of a few of our Christian sisters who were instrumental in the growth and Restoration of the Church of Christ. Each of these fine women contributed in their own way to the Restoration Movement and are worthy of further study.

 

Charlotte Fall Fanning (1809-1896)

Selena M. Holman (1850-1913)

Sarah S. Andrews (1893-1961)

Annie C. Tuggle (1890-1976).

Bobbie Lee Holley (1927- )

Helen M. Young (1918- )

Geneva Franklin

Today’s Restoration Women

Miki Pulley

Katie Hays

 

 

  • * *

 

 

Bibliography

 

1Jones, “The Reformation in Tennessee,” cited by J.M. Grant in “A Sketch of the Reformation in Tennessee,” manuscript, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, p. 55.

2Thomas, The Life of the Pilgrim Joseph Thomas (Winchester, VA; n.p., 1817), p. 132.

3Howard, “The Beginning Corner; or The Church of Christ Identified,” ACR 1 (August 1856): 226-35.

4Jn. T. Jones, Jno. Rigdon M. Elder, and D.P. Henderson, Committee, “Report,” CM 9 (November 1835): 251. Cf. J. Stephen Sandifer, Deacons: Male and, Female? (Houston: Keystone Publishing, 1989).

5Hughes, Richard T., Reviving the Ancient Faith, 1996, (Cambridge, U.K., Wm. Eermans Publishing) p. 381.

6Bailey tells this story in detail in “The Status of Women in the Disciples of Christ Movement, 1865-1900,” pp. 79-122.

7Lipscomb, “Woman and Her Work,” GA 34 (13 October 1892): 644.

8See Nichol, God’s Woman (Clifton, Tex.: n.p., 1938), p. 137; and Tant, “Women Preaching,” FF 6 (25 December 1890): 3.

9See Thomas E. Kemp, “Putting Woman in Her Place, Mission 7 (May 1974): 4-7;

10Lipscomb, cited by Fred Arthur Bailey in “The Status of Women in the Disciples of Christ Movement, 1965-1900” (Ph.D. diss., University of Tennessee, 1979), p. 67. Bailey’s work is the standard history of the debate over the role of women in the Stone-Campbell movement from the Civil War to 1900.

 

 

  • * *

 

 

ABOUT SHARON AND RAY STEELMAN

 

Sharon and Ray Steelman are a husband and wife team living in Huntsville, Alabama. Since 1972, they have had numerous publications to their credit. They have had articles published in several magazines including Life Insurance Selling, Home Mechanix, Broker World, Yesterday’s Memories, Our Old Town, Health Insurance Underwriter, Harmonica Educator, and others. They have written several books which are listed below. They also have marketed two commercial video tapes and six easy listening harmonica albums that have been marketed and sold internationally. Ray has over 200 You Tube and Vimeo harmonica and vocal videos that are viewed around the world each day. Sharon and Ray have been Sunday School teachers and are ongoing Bible students. Their publication, All God’s Children, was written in 1997, because of discrepancies in church practices and doctrine that they discovered during their personal exploration of the scriptures. One of their most popular works, Herman…the Male Cow, is a series of short stories pertaining to the childhood of Ray’s uncle, Frank Bryant. These stories are heart-warming tales that depicts life in 1920’s and 1930’s in rural Lincoln County, Tennessee as seen through the eyes of a young farm boy.

 

Some of Sharon and Ray’s publications and other products have been sold at:

Barnes and Noble Bookstores

Books A Million

Wal-Mart

Baker and Taylor

Hohner Harmonica Company

Amazon.com Books

Local and Regional Bookstores

 

Books by Sharon and Ray Steelman

Learn to Play the Harmonica (1978 – no longer available)

Learn to Play the Harmonica… Nashville Style

Harmonica 101

Caveman Entrepreneurship

All God’s Children

It’s a Tough Act to Follow Myself (poetry)

When Sherman and the Boys Came South (True Civil War Stories)

The Truth about Tithing

Old Phonies, Cronies and other Baloney (A collection of short stories)

Jokes You Can Tell Yo’ Mama (joke book)

Herman the Male Cow

 

These books are available as e-books from most book distributors.

 


All God's Children

This book is thought provoking and disturbing to the Christian who bases his/her beliefs on the traditions of mankind rather than an honest and open study of the Bible. In reading this book, one must remember that “blind acceptance breeds a deadly type of conformity.” This book was written because of discrepancies that they discovered in the modern day Church practices that they believe are contrary to those of the first century Church. These discoveries were made after careful examination of the Bible and exploration of the “original languages” to see what the scriptures really said. The authors determined that, in their opinions, the modern day role of women in Christianity has been determined more by man’s distortion and misinterpretation of the scriptures than by God’s intent.

  • ISBN: 9781370141012
  • Author: Ray Steelman
  • Published: 2016-07-26 15:40:31
  • Words: 13041
All God's Children All God's Children