Affirming the Ministry of Women in the Lutheran Church of Australia

ORDINATION OF WOMEN IN THE LCA? – A POSITIVE ANSWER

A. Introduction

1.

In recent history the question of whether also women may be ordained in the Lutheran Church of Australia has been debated within the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations (CITCR) for over a decade. Some documents of the CTICR have already been made available to members of the church. A subcommittee (chaired by the writer) produced a report in April 1991 after three year’s of exacting study of the issues involved. In 1992 the Commission issued a booklet prepared by Dr John Strelan, entitled Women and the Ministry, that was designed to promote discussion in congregations of the church. More recently, the Commission has produced position papers outlining an argument both for and against the ordination of women in the LCA. At the end of 1999 the CTICR made a recommendation to the church that there were no theological reasons prohibiting the ordination of women. The matter will be presented for decision at the next General Convention.2.
There is no more emotive issue in the LCA today than this one. Though some people have no strong opinion on the matter and are waiting for the church (meaning others!) to reach a decision, it is a painful debate for many members of the church and is so for a number of reasons:

  • Some are bewildered at the proposed rejection of past practice and see this as inevitably involving the rejection of the authority of Scripture itself;
  • Others are frustrated by what they see as the slowness of the LCA to follow the lead of most Lutheran Churches in allowing women to be ordained;
  • Some fear that a change in practice will have domino effect leading to, for example, the loss of trinitarian theology or the triumph of feminism in the church;
  • Some lay people are dismayed that pastors and theologians of the church (also within the Commission on Theology) continue to be divided on this issue;
  • There is always the threat that the issue could split the Church -thus the suggestion by some that we should not even be debating the issue.

3.
We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God’s revealed truth in the authoritative Scriptures. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences first as a teenager then as a student in Germany. More recently I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been dis-empowered and marginalised in the church (I do not like using the broad term feminism) and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord’s will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority!)

B. Reading the evidence (hermeneutics)

1.
Lutherans read scripture with special glasses that help us to focus on Christ. He is the heart of the scriptures. We eagerly distinguish between (but do not separate) law and gospel. Since both law and gospel serve Christ, and since God’s will is consistently one, we also believe in the unity of revelation in the scriptures; thus scripture interprets scripture. Unclear passages must be explained with the help of clear passages. The argument below will attempt to remain true to these hermeneutical principles. Instead of showing how these principles work in theory, we shall leave their application to the actual study of the texts.

2.
Though it may be expressed in new ways, the gospel is unchangeable; it must be so for the church stands or falls on the gospel. If its foundation is not the rock of the gospel the church cannot hope to endure for all time as Christ promised Peter it would (Matthew 16:18Matthew 16:18
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18 I also tell you that you are Peter, Peter’s name, Petros in Greek, is the word for a specific rock or stone. and on this rock Greek, petra, a rock mass or bedrock. I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

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). The meaning and validity of the law is more difficult to define because ‘law‘ can be understood in various ways. Law can mean the total claim of God on human beings; ethical command (especially as in the Ten Commandments); ritual requirement (used thus especially in Leviticus and Hebrews); sign of the covenant; regulations for the ordering of human life -the rabbis of Jesus’ day would add ‘the oral tradition’ (see Mark 7). Paul shows in Romans and Galatians that the law is no longer valid as the basis of the new covenant, of the new righteousness and of life with God. Christ is the end of the law in two senses: he is the goal to which the law points; he brings its old function and its curse to an end. Hebrews shows how Christ also supersedes the old ritual law. Where do the texts regulating the behaviour of women in the New Testament churches belong? The argument against the ordination of women must demonstrate beyond any doubt that these are unchanging cultic regulations. It is just here that the problems begin, since the texts will not bear the weight of the argument that they are eternally valid regulations for the church of all time.

3.
What we should seek is the historical-contextual meaning of Scripture. It helps little to speak of the literal meaning of biblical texts. Even those against the ordination of women still have to explain what the words mean: ‘The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak‘. A literal reading of 1 Corinthians 14:34,351 Corinthians 14:34,35
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34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.

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would suggest that wives should not speak, since it is shameful for them to do so, and they can in any case carry on a discussion at home with their husbands about what has been said or what has happened in church. Our own church has never taken these words literally in the sense that women (not wives!) can say nothing in church. A sensitive historical-contextual reading of the texts in question is required; one that shows what the texts in question meant for certain Christian communities in the past before attempting to apply them today.

4.
At the heart of the dispute is not so much, or not merely, the original meaning of the texts, but how they are to be applied in the church today. We need to distinguish between original sense and present application. Both 1 Corinthians 11:2-161 Corinthians 11:2-16
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2 Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.

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(women wearing a head covering) and 1 Corinthians 14:33-401 Corinthians 14:33-40
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33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints, 34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly. 36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

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(women speaking in church assemblies) deal with much that is specific to the Corinthian situation. We do not have to transplant everything in these texts across twenty centuries, from one historical setting to completely different historical settings today, to remain faithful to issue that Paul is addressing: concern for good order in public worship.

C. From scripture to doctrine

1.
Whether one is for or against women holding the public office, the argument cannot be developed without making inferences from texts and combining evidence from the New Testament into a coherent argument. There is no statement in the New Testament that we must baptise children. We conclude that this is God’s will from a number of clear scriptural truths, especially those teaching the universality of sin and the universality of grace. All are sinners; all need the grace that is available in baptism. Similarly, the argument for women being allowed to hold the public office cannot produce a biblical text that says it must be so, but argues inferentially. It seeks to show that

  • the texts in question make perfect sense in the context of the early church’s mission;
  • a male dominated apostolate and local ministry made perfect sense in the early church but is not an eternally binding order;
  • there are clear indications both in the teaching of Jesus and in the teaching of the apostle Paul that women are equally heirs of the kingdom and co-workers in the spread of the gospel;
  • legitimate implications for the ordering of ministry can be drawn from the gospel without turning the gospel into law.

2.
It has been said that only the argument for the ordination of women has to prove its case. Such an assertion works with an assumption: that the New Testament clearly speaks against women occupying the public ministry then and in all ages. That assumption needs to be challenged. The argument in this presentation follows the basic points raised by the contra argument in order to show how the evidence can be read differently.

3.
At issue is not only how we arrive at doctrine, but also whether there can be new doctrine. Here some careful distinctions are necessary. The Lutheran Confessions have a clear teaching in the Augsburg Confession Article V on the divine institution of the public office, on what it administers (word and sacraments), and on the power at work through it (the Spirit). Whether women may be ordained is a question about the ordering of ministry that is not directly addressed in the Lutheran Confessions. To conclude that we may ordain women today does not mean that the church has been guilty of heresy in not doing so in the past. That we have drawn wrong conclusions and not drawn correct ones from Scripture does not mean that we repent of the past, but embrace new insights as gifts of the Spirit who leads people to understand the Truth (see John 16:13John 16:13
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13 However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.

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).

4.
I would assert that also the failure to ordain women today cannot be called heresy, even if the LCA were to decide in favour of the practice. Clearly, there must be ministry, but there is no command that women must be ordained. The Lutheran Church in Australia has had a word and sacrament ministry — with men only. To continue this practice would not be false teaching, but to perpetuate a regrettably narrow application of the church’s teaching on the ministry. It would continue to see only half the members of Christ’s Body as potential ministers to all members of that Body.

5.
The doctrine of the church, as contained in its public teaching, confession and practice, is not static in the sense that it is ever ‘finished’. Formulating doctrine did not finish with the early church, nor did it finish with the Reformation. New circumstances and new questions require new answers. New insights can lead to new conclusions.

This is not to say that past confessions become relative -in fact, they become even more important as a safe anchor for the ship of faith while plumbing new depths around the ship! Nor does it mean that doctrine becomes a shifting sand dune, blown with the wind of current theological opinion. It means a growth in faith and understanding that leads to greater praise of and bolder witness to the Triune God who is the author of all truth.

D. Tradition and Ecumenicity

1.
It is an indisputable fact that for over eighteen centuries catholic, orthodox Christianity has not permitted women to hold the public office. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches have affirmed that tradition in recent times. That is an impressive tradition, one in which the Lutheran Churches also stood united until the Swedish Church first broke ranks and began ordaining women early in this century. But Lutherans, of all people, should know that tradition and past practice alone do not determine what our practice today should be. The Church of the Reformation knows that the church must always be reformed.

2.
Similarly, the practice of other churches is not determinative. The so-called ecumenical argument is capable of differing applications. Does it mean conforming to the practice of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, even though our doctrine of the ministry is different? (The recent appeal of the pope for all Catholic theologians to reject the ordination of women to the priesthood is further evidence for the strength of the contrary view within the Church of Rome!) Does it mean conformity with other Lutherans? If so, with the majority who ordain women, or with those who do not? -In short, both tradition and ecumenical relations are important factors as the LCA makes its own decision, but they are not determining factors.

E. Interpreting the key texts

First Corinthians 14:33-40

1.
This text must be read with 1 Cor 11:2-161 Cor 11:2-16
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2 Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.

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. Though the latter is one of the most difficult texts in Paul’s letters, some things are clear. Paul allows women to speak in public worship as long as they are clearly marked by the veil or some head covering. He develops his argument on a number of bases, not all of equal weight. He argues from creation, from social convention on what brings shame and disgrace or honour and glory, from nature and from recognised church practice. Clearly, the practice he is regulating belongs to public worship, not to what goes on in the privacy of the Corinthians’ homes. Paul’s point that women must be seen to be women, his reference to the angels as guardians of order in worship (that seems to be the meaning of the difficult verse 10) and the following teaching on the Lord’s Supper all make this clear.

2.
This passage stands, at the very least, in tension with Paul’s ruling in 1 Cor 14:341 Cor 14:34
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34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says.

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that the women/wives keep silent in the churches, meaning church assemblies. To avoid a contradiction some argue that Paul is referring to inspired prophetesses in chap. 11 but to regular preaching in chap. 14. But Paul makes no such distinction. He insists against the charismatic Corinthians that the ‘spirits of prophets are subject to prophets’ (1 Cor 14:321 Cor 14:32
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32 The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,

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). It is not a questions of women being allowed to pray and prophesy because they have to speak by the Spirit in chap. 11.

3.
There is even some tension between Paul’s argument on the clear differentiation between men and women as created beings in 1 Cor 11:3-91 Cor 11:3-9
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3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

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and their mutual interdependence ‘in the Lord’ in 1 Cor 11:11,121 Cor 11:11,12
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11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God.

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. Paul has two starting points for his view of the role of men and women in the church. The abuses at Corinth demand that he stress the created difference between men and women. This would explain why the baptismal formula of Galatians 3:28Galatians 3:28
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28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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appears in 1 Cor 12:131 Cor 12:13
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13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit.

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without the phrase ‘neither male nor female’! (though Col 3:11Col 3:11
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11 where there can’t be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.

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also lacks this phrase).

4.
There is a textual question in 1 Cor 14:33-401 Cor 14:33-40
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33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints, 34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly. 36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

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. One tradition, chiefly western, places vv34, 35 after v40. In this reading Paul’s appeal to the ‘command of the Lord’ (v37) would come before the command that women be silent. Even the appeal has variant readings, with some manuscripts having ‘commands of the Lord’, others omitting the word ‘command’ altogether. Now even if none of the variants are original, the changes are, as often, something like a first commentary on the text. In other words, early copyists also had problems understanding Paul’s words.

5.
The context of 1 Cor 14:341 Cor 14:34
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34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says.

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,35 is disorder in public worship: people seeking to outdo each other in speaking tongues and prophesying. We have already seen that the silence of women cannot be an absolute silence. Nor must ‘speak’ mean ‘preach’. The following reference to asking questions of husbands at home indicates that Paul has in mind the kind of discussions in the church that were also part of synagogal worship with which some of the Corinthian Christians would have been familiar (see Acts 18:1-4,8Acts 18:1-4,8
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18 1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. 2 He found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. He came to them, 3 and because he practiced the same trade, he lived with them and worked, for by trade they were tent makers. 4 He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized.

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for the Jewish beginnings of the Corinthian church). What Paul forbids is argumentative disputation by women, their disruptive insistence on being heard. The ultimate concern is for good order and not confusion in worship -see how vv 33a and 40 frame the discussion in the accepted verse order.

6.
Paul speaks with apostolic authority here in 1 Cor 14:3-401 Cor 14:3-40
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3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, exhortation, and consolation. 4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly. 5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up. 6 But now, brothers, The word for “brothers” here and where context allows may also be correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” if I come to you speaking with other languages, what would I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? 7 Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they didn’t give a distinction in the sounds, how would it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, who would prepare himself for war? 9 So also you, unless you uttered by the tongue words easy to understand, how would it be known what is spoken? For you would be speaking into the air. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of sounds in the world, and none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I don’t know the meaning of the sound, I would be to him who speaks a foreigner, and he who speaks would be a foreigner to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek that you may abound to the building up of the assembly. 13 Therefore let him who speaks in another language pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16 Otherwise if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn’t know what you say? 17 For you most assuredly give thanks well, but the other person is not built up. 18 I thank my God, I speak with other languages more than you all. 19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language. 20 Brothers, don’t be children in thoughts, yet in malice be babies, but in thoughts be mature. 21 In the law it is written, “By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. Not even thus will they hear me, says the Lord.” 22 Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe. 23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won’t they say that you are crazy? 24 But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. So he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed. 26 What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up. 27 If any man speaks in another language, let it be two, or at the most three, and in turn; and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the assembly, and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29 Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern. 30 But if a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted. 32 The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints, 34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly. 36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

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, yet his appeals (as in 1 Cor 11:2-161 Cor 11:2-16
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2 Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.

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) are not all on the same level. He cites common practice (v33b), the ‘law’ (though what law is referred to in v24 is unclear), what is ‘shameful’ (v35) and the ‘command of the Lord’ (v38). He even seems to threaten exclusion from the faith community (v38). None of these appeals help us to determine with absolute certainty whether Paul is laying down rules for all time. We should note that his regulations include what he has said about speaking in tongues and taking turns to prophesy. A literal application of Paul’s words would require us to allow speaking in tongues and prophesying by members of the congregation, with each taking their turn. But this we do not do. We have been selective in our application of the text.

1 Timothy 2:11-151 Timothy 2:11-15
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11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15 but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

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1.
The context is again a situation of disorder. Teachers have entered the congregations promoting false doctrine (1 Tim 1:31 Tim 1:3
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3 As I exhorted you to stay at Ephesus when I was going into Macedonia, that you might charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine,

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), making members angry and argumentative (2:8; 6:4). This false teaching seems to have caught on especially among the women (1 Tim 4:7; 21 Tim 4:7; 2
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7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness. 2 1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times; 7 to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle , a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. 9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 10 but with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15 but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

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Tim 3:6,7) and led to idle gossip (5:13), pleasure seeking (5:6,11) and the love of expensive clothes and jewellery (2:9).

2.
Some phrases or words in the text are not perfectly clear in meaning. The verb translated ‘to have authority‘ appears only here in the New Testament. Outside the New Testament it can refer to aggressive, assertive or even violent behaviour towards others, so some commentators insist that Paul is not allowing women to teach in a certain way.

3.
As in 1 Cor 11 and 14, we need to note carefully the way Paul argues. There is obviously an agenda behind the reminder that Adam was created first, but that Eve, not Adam, was the first to be deceived. Does this contain a swipe at the cult of Artemis in Ephesus, a cult that taught that Artemis was created before her male consort? Does the text seek to substantiate a common view that women are less reliable than men? Another scenario is more likely in my view. Like the Corinthian church, that at Ephesus had its origins in Judaism. While Paul also has general community standards in mind (see how the appeal to modesty and sensible behaviour frames the passage in 1 Tim 2:9,151 Tim 2:9,15
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9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 15 but she will be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

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) he is speaking to young Christians who come out of a synagogal background. The biblical evidence he uses in vv13,14 is what would be familiar and convincing to them.

4.
The rejection of an argumentative, assertive speaking of women in worship has some things in common with 1 Cor 14:33-351 Cor 14:33-35
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33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the assemblies of the saints, 34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly.

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. Women/wives are to remain silent; they are to show submission (the two texts do not expressly say that the women are to be subordinate to the men); they are to be learners/questioners. Respectful silence, letting men take the lead, declining to argue with the male leaders of the congregation – all this is not only understandable for a young church it is necessary so that the mission to bring God’s saving will to all people (not only ‘men’; 1 Tim 2:41 Tim 2:4
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4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.

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) will not be placed in jeopardy by offensive behaviour.

5.
What is modest, sensible and seemly with reference to clothing (v 9) refers, like the length of one’s hair, to norms and standards in society generally, but specifically within Judaism. A woman leading in the worship of the early church was just as impossible as was a woman leading in synagogal worship. Our world is decidedly different. Of course, we are not blindly to follow community standards. But we should be sensitive to the perception of ‘outsiders’ that the world is often ahead of the church in actually honouring and treating women as equals.

Galatians 3:26-28Galatians 3:26-28
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26 For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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1.
The final phrase in this baptismal formula, ‘there is no longer male and female‘ is clearly a reference to Genesis 1:27Genesis 1:27
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27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.

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, to the original creation. Paul here points to the results of the new creation in Christ by virtue of baptism. He does not deny that there are still Greeks, Jews, slaves, free people, men and women. Rather, the new creation means that they have a new status of unity and equality before God.

2.
Is this merely a faith statement? Some insist that it describes only what we are before God, not in our social relationships. Yet this radical formula obviously did have social implications. Onesimus may not have ceased to be a slave, yet Paul expected Philemon to treat him very differently now that he had become a Christian (Philem 15-17). Early Christians could not change whether they were of Jewish or Gentile background, but Paul expected each side to embrace and treat the other side as equal in honour and standing (Rom 15:7-9Rom 15:7-9
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7 Therefore receive one another, even as Christ also received you, TR reads “us” instead of “you” to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Christ has been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore will I give praise to you among the Gentiles, And sing to your name.”

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; Eph 2:11-22Eph 2:11-22
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11 Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision,” ; 12 that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, 15 having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace; 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility thereby. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21 in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

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). Husbands and wives remained men and women, but their relationships were now determined by the love, respect and mutual submission that they shared as partners in the gospel (see Eph 5:21-33Eph 5:21-33
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21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. 24 But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly; 30 because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. 31 “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly. 33 Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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).

3.
The text does not say women must be ordained! That would be to turn gospel into law. What is legitimate is to draw practical conclusions from the gospel. The church is not a preserve for male supremacy of men and women in the family of God. The mutual interdependence of wives and husbands in marriage (1 Cor 7:41 Cor 7:4
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4 The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife.

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) should be matched by the complementary service of men and women in the Body of Christ, using the gifts that the Spirit has freely given without gender differentiation.

4.
Why did the early church not immediately draw all possible practical conclusions from Gal 3:28Gal 3:28
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28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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? One obvious answer was that expectation of Christ’s immanent return did not allow for great changes. But there is another more important reason. Though the gospel was radical, the Christian movement was very conservative in its practice when moving out into the world from the Jewish mother-soil. The prime concern was always mission. A few examples may help to show how mission expediency rather than gospel principle determined mission practice, without the principle being given up.

  • Paul could still circumcise Timothy, though he maintained that circumcision counted for nothing (Acts 16:3Acts 16:3
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    3 Paul wanted to have him go out with him, and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

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    ; Gal 6:15Gal 6:15
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    15 For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

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    ; 1 Cor 7:191 Cor 7:19
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    19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

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    );
  • The Gentiles were to be free from the Jewish law, yet the Apostolic Council decreed that aspects of it be observed also by Gentile converts (Acts 15:7-11, 19-21Acts 15:7-11, 19-21
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    7 When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, TR adds “Christ” just as they are.” 19 “Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

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    ) -ñthis edict, issued with the Spirit’s authority (15:28) was not repealed; it simply lapsed;
  • Paul intimates that the gospel and the one needing to hear the gospel were his prime concern; he would be a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:19-231 Cor 9:19-23
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    19 For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law , that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 Now I do this for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it.

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    ). Far from promoting social change, his rule was that people stay where they were when they received the gospel (1 Cor 7:17-241 Cor 7:17-24
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    17 Only, as the Lord has distributed to each man, as God has called each, so let him walk. So I command in all the assemblies. 18 Was anyone called having been circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Let each man stay in that calling in which he was called. 21 Were you called being a bondservant? Don’t let that bother you, but if you get an opportunity to become free, use it. 22 For he who was called in the Lord being a bondservant is the Lord’s free man. Likewise he who was called being free is Christ’s bondservant. 23 You were bought with a price. Don’t become bondservants of men. 24 Brothers, let each man, in whatever condition he was called, stay in that condition with God.

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    ).

F. Headship and subordination

1.
In Greek the word ‘head‘ is not synonymous with ‘leader‘ or prime authority. It denotes the source from which something originates. Thus God is the head of Christ and man is the head of woman since Eve came from Adam (see 1 Cor 11:3-121 Cor 11:3-12
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3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for neither was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God.

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). Christ is head of the church as its self-giving Saviour. The husband is head of the wife also in the sense that he is responsible for her welfare. That Christ as head of the church is also its Lord does not mean that the husband, by analogy, can lord it over the wife.

2.
God as Creator has ordered his creation. So we speak of government and the family as orders of creation. The order is the form or structure within which we live. How we live in that structure as Christians is determined not merely by the structure, but by our life in Christ. Not law but love is to guide husband and wife in marriage (Eph 5:25-33Eph 5:25-33
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25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly; 30 because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. 31 “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the assembly. 33 Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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).

3.
Subordination is something enjoined of all Christians. They are to ‘be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ’ (Eph 5:21Eph 5:21
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21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.

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). The form of the verb suggests a voluntary submission under others, not by compulsion and not according to a fixed scheme. It does not mean that the wife must place herself under the husband. Then slavery would have to be called a created order, but that is certainly not what 1 Peter 2:181 Peter 2:18
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18 Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the wicked.

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implies when it calls on servants to be submissive to masters. Submissive behaviour is a way of showing special honour and respect to the other partner, but it does not mean surrendering all authority and leadership to the other partner.

G. The maleness of Jesus and the apostles; ministry in the early church

1.
That Jesus and the apostles were male is a fact, not a prescription. Women in Judaism could not function as priests in the temple or as leaders of the synagogue. They could not study Torah with a rabbi nor could they be full members of the community at Qumran. It is easy to understand why Jesus as the promised messianic king had to be male; it was equally necessary that the apostles be male.

2.
Jesus’ apostles (in the narrower, technical sense) were those who witnessed the risen Lord and were commissioned by him for witness to the world. Since it involved eyewitness testimony and personal authorisation by Jesus, the apostolic office was both foundational and temporary. The apostles died out; no new apostles could be appointed. This means that public ministry of word and sacrament is not a replication of the apostolic office, though it does continue ‘the spiritual functions of the apostolate’ (TA VI 6; DSTO A12). Pastors can witness to Christ only through the apostolic word. They represent Christ who is Lord of all, not the (male) apostles.

3.
Some early authorities read Junia (feminine name) instead of Junias (male name) at Romans 16:7Romans 16:7
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7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives and my fellow prisoners, who are notable among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

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. If this reading is original, it still does not decide whether there was a woman apostle among Jesus’ earliest witnesses. That Junia/s is a person ‘of not among the apostles’ could mean that he/she is well known by the apostles. Even the word ‘apostles’ could be used in the more general sense of a sent representative (see 2 Cor 8:232 Cor 8:23
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23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for you. As for our brothers, they are the apostles of the assemblies, the glory of Christ.

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; Phil 2:25Phil 2:25
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25 But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, and your apostle and minister to my need;

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).

4.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Jesus honoured women in ways quite untypical of a Jewish teacher; he treated women as disciples (unheard of in early rabbinic practice). Women ministered to Jesus (eg Luke 8:2Luke 8:2
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2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out;

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). Similarly, women were valued co-workers of the apostles. Priscilla even took the lead from her husband Aquila in teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26Acts 18:26
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26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

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). She, together with Euodia and Syntyche, were fellow-workers with Paul in his mission (Rom 16:3Rom 16:3
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3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

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; Phil 4:2,3Phil 4:2,3
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2 I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to think the same way in the Lord. 3 Yes, I beg you also, true yoke-fellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

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). Three women helped to establish the church at Rome (Rom 16:6,12Rom 16:6,12
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6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Greet Persis, the beloved, who labored much in the Lord.

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).

H. The doctrine of ministry

1.
The Lutheran Confessions make clear that the public office is a creation of the Lord for the proclamation of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments. Though pastors must have an inner call, it is the outer call of the church that makes them pastors. As much as we seek people with gifts, the gifts do not constitute the pastor’s authority. This is true also of the natural gift of gender. Pastors represent Christ in their humanness, not in their maleness.

2.
Pastors speak and act as Christ’s personal representatives (see Luke 10:16Luke 10:16
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16 Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me. Whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

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). In this they image Christ. They do not represent Jesus’ maleness but his saving person in word and sacrament. Christ became human so that male and female could be recreated in the image of God. Christ is the perfect image of God (2 Cor 4:42 Cor 4:4
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4 in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.

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) and those who believe in him, whether male or female, are renewed into Christ’s image (2 Cor 3:182 Cor 3:18
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18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.

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). Women who bear the new Christ-image can represent Christ as much as can men. To deny this is to limit the meaning of the incarnation and its blessed results for all people, male and female: the renewal of the image of God in Christ.

The coming General Pastors’ Conference and Convention will be a test of the LCA, of how we think and debate theologically. I will be disappointed if the ordination of women is rejected, but I will not leave the church if that happens. The LCA is my spiritual home, and I hope it remains the home of all Lutherans who, like me, believe that women can represent Christ and serve the Triune God in public ministry.

Dr Vic Pfitzner
Outline of a presentation at
St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Nunawading,
Sunday 19 July, 1998

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