Should Women Preach? (The Story of One Bible College Faculty’s Quest for an Answer)

By Matt Proctor

In the book Children’s Letters to God, one young girl wrote: “Dear God, are boys better than girls? I know you are one, but try to be fair.” It’s an age-old question: what does God think about women and, specifically, women’s roles in the church?

It’s also a controversial question. The April 2013 article “Women Preaching” generated more comments on CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s website than any other article last year. The article mentioned that Ozark Christian College offers a preaching class for women, and some readers wondered about the biblical rationale for such a class. (By the way, I’m grateful for all who want to hold our Restoration Movement colleges accountable. May their tribe increase.)

After all, in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.” Are we (I use we because I am president of OCC) simply disregarding this text from God’s Word? If we are a true Bible college—teaching what the Bible teaches, prohibiting what the Bible prohibits, and allowing what the Bible allows—then what possible scriptural warrant is there for a women’s preaching class?

To answer that question, let me tell you a story.

Ten years ago, the OCC faculty used its weekly faculty meetings for an entire semester to study the biblical teaching on women’s roles in the church. Together we surveyed Scripture and exegeted the key New Testament passages. Our goal was to set political correctness and cultural pressures aside and to simply let God’s Word have its say on this important subject.

We wanted to follow wise hermeneutical principles in our study. We employed the principle of harmony, which reminded us not to interpret any text in isolation. Rather, we sought to interpret each particular Scripture in light of all of Scripture. God’s Word does not contradict itself, so we sought to harmonize the Bible’s teachings.

Our journey was also guided by the principle of history, which reminded us that God’s eternal commands were communicated in specific historical contexts. A text cannot mean what it never meant, so we sought to hear the Bible’s words as the first readers would have. As we understood the original historical-grammatical context, we would understand the Word of God.

Finally, we wanted to follow the principle of humility. This principle simply reminded us that, while God’s Word is absolutely authoritative, my particular interpretation of it is not. We are fallible human beings, and we are wise to at least entertain the possibility that our understanding of Scripture might be wrong. We must allow for our minds to be changed if our study of the Bible leads us to a different place than where we started. This is true submission to God.

 

So What Does the Rest of the Bible Actually Say?

With those guidelines in place, Ozark faculty members began their exegetical journey. We wanted to obey 1 Timothy 2:12. But to understand what it was (and wasn’t) saying, we needed to look at the rest of Scripture’s teaching on women’s leadership.

03_Proctor_JNIn the Old Testament, primary leadership of God’s people was reserved for men. All the priests were men; every published prophet was a man. However, on occasion, women did have a leadership role among God’s people. Women, such as Miriam (Exodus 15:20, 21) and the ladies in the choir (1 Chronicles 25:5, 6; Ezra 2:65; Nehemiah 7:67) helped lead worship. Deborah served as both a judge and a prophetess (Judges 4:4). Miriam, Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3) were also called prophetesses.

How about in the New Testament? In the Bible’s last 27 books, it again seemed clear that men were the primary leaders of God’s people. All 12 apostles were men; church elders were described as men. In fact, 1 Timothy 2:12, 13 grounded this in the doctrine of creation itself. Adam was formed first, says Paul, as God’s way of hard-wiring male leadership into his created order.

The New Testament often showed us women involved in nonleadership works of service—Martha feeding Jesus and his disciples (Luke 10:40), Tabitha (Dorcas) making coats for widows (Acts 9:39), Nympha hosting a church in her home (Colossians 4:15). One wag noted that if the wise men of Matthew 2 had instead been wise women, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts like diapers! This much was certain: like the Mary mentioned in Romans 16:6, women “worked very hard” in the church’s behind-the-scenes labors.

But we also saw women’s gifts deployed in occasional proclamation and ministry leadership roles. After Jesus’ resurrection, God chose women to be the first bearers of the Easter message, as Mary and Mary Magdalene announced it to the apostles (Matthew 28:1, 7). Anna was called a prophetess (Luke 2:36), as were Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:8, 9). Phoebe was called a deacon (Romans 16:1), and Romans 16:7 seemed to call Junia an “apostle”—in the broader, general sense of “missionary” or “one sent out” like Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25). Priscilla, with her husband Aquila, taught Apollos privately (Acts 18:26), and we heard Paul saying that Euodia and Syntyche somehow “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel” (Philippians 4:2, 3).

So far, then, the Bible seemed to be painting a picture of ongoing, regular male leadership—sprinkled with rarer moments of occasional female leadership—among God’s people.

 

An Often Overlooked Text

But as our faculty study continued, the question remained: what about women preaching? Doesn’t 1 Timothy 2:12 say that a woman is not to teach a man? Clearly a woman may teach a man in private, as Priscilla did with Apollos, so 1 Timothy 2:12 must instead mean that a woman may not teach a man publicly in the church assembly, right?

It is certainly true that 1 Timothy 2 is about the public worship service. However, an often-overlooked text clarified our understanding of that passage.

In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul tells us that women prophesied in the New Testament church’s worship assembly. Important note: as you may know, prophesying in Scripture was more proclamation than prediction. While it might include foretelling, more often prophesying meant forthtelling God’s message to God’s people.1 In other words, it was much like what we call preaching today.

First Corinthians 11 was telling us that, in the first-century culture, a woman who prophesied in church should keep her head covered, indicating an attitude of submission to the church’s male leaders. The implication was clear: a woman is allowed, in a posture of humble followership, to prophesy in the church’s assembly. She can share a message from God, even with the men present.

Since the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, this understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 led us as a faculty to believe that, whatever 1 Timothy 2 was teaching, it must not be teaching that women can never on any occasion speak or proclaim God’s message in church. Otherwise Paul would be prohibiting in the 1 Timothy text what he allows in the 1 Corinthians 11 text.2

By the way, we couldn’t help thinking of the Day of Pentecost. What text did Peter use for the very first Christian sermon? He quoted Joel 2 to talk about the Spirit’s new indwelling presence among Christ’s followers, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Acts 2:17).

But if the church’s daughters can prophesy/preach, then what exactly was Paul prohibiting in 1 Timothy 2:12?

 

A Critical Clue in the Grammar

At this point, we as a faculty moved from the principle of harmony (what does the rest of the Bible say?) to the principle of history (how would the original readers have understood this?).

I once had a preaching professor who said that Greek in a sermon should be like underwear: it should provide good support but you shouldn’t let it show! Pardon me for letting some Greek show, but it’s important because God communicated his eternal truth in normal human grammar that can be analyzed and comprehended. Understanding the biblical grammar helps us understand the biblical God. So hang with me here.

The original readers of 1 Timothy, of course, spoke Greek, and when Paul wrote 1 Timothy 2:12, he chose a very specific Greek grammatical construction. The phrase “to teach” (didaskein in Greek) is a present tense infinitive instead of an aorist tense infinitive.3 The aorist tense is a close-up photographic snapshot of an action, picturing as little as one particular occurrence. The present tense is a wide-angle movie camera shot of an action, picturing a continuous, habitual, ongoing condition—a state of being.

For example, “to believe” (aorist) means to exercise faith on a given occasion, while “to believe” (present) means to be a believer. “To serve” (aorist) means to perform an act of service, while “to serve” (present) means to be a servant. “To sin” (aorist) means to commit a particular sin, while “to sin” (present) means to be a sinner.4

So “to teach” (aorist) means to teach on a given occasion, while “to teach” (present) means to be a teacher. When Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12 that he does not permit a woman “to teach” (present), he is not saying she can never teach on any given occasion in church. Instead, he is saying that a woman should not be the continuous, ongoing, habitual teacher. That’s the implication of the Greek grammar, and it’s reasonable to believe this is how the original readers would’ve understood it.

 

A Conclusion to Our Exegetical Journey

This raised a question: who are the continuous, ongoing, habitual teachers for the congregation? The answer is in the immediately following context of 1 Timothy. Just a few verses later, Paul tells us that the elders are the teachers. (Elders are men “able to teach” in 1 Timothy 3:2.) They are the recognized, authoritative, the-buck-stops-here teachers. So from the context, it would seem that when Paul says he “does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man,” he is saying that he does not allow women to be elders.

By the way, the description in the New Testament that best fits what we call the “preacher” of a church is the elder who is paid to preach and teach (1 Timothy 5:17). So if a modern-day “preacher” is a preaching-teaching elder, then it would seem that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from being the preacher of a local congregation.

All of this certainly squared with our survey of the Old Testament: ongoing, regular male leadership—sprinkled with rarer moments of occasional female leadership—among God’s people. So as a faculty, after our study of Scripture, we came to these conclusions:

1. Beginning with creation, God has hard-wired male spiritual leadership into the system, and God is calling men to step up as the primary leaders in his church.

2. The regular teachers and leaders in any congregation, then, are to be the elders—a role reserved for men. This includes the role of “the preacher” in a local church.

3. The New Testament does also allow for women, on occasion, to preach and teach in church—from a posture of submission to the elders’ ultimate authority.

 

Don’t Miss the Most Important Fact

As a college under the authority of Scripture, we want to prohibit what the Bible prohibits and allow what the Bible allows. So, yes, in our curriculum at Ozark Christian College, we have a preaching class for women—but not because we believe women should be the preacher of a local church. Rather, it’s because we believe that when women have opportunity to preach and teach on occasion (as the Bible seems to allow), they should be prepared to do their best for God’s glory and the church’s good.

In all the talk about women preaching, don’t miss this important fact: women are also gifted and called to serve in many significant ways in the church’s life that are not “up-front” ministry. These should be honored and celebrated, because God-given gender roles are not meant to be competitive but complementary. We’re all wearing the same jersey, and God never intended to leave the female half of his team sitting on the bench. He wants them in the game because we have a world to win.

As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). The evangelistic need is so great that the Lord calls all hands on deck, ready to work, without squabbling about who gets to do what. Let’s equip every available person—man and woman—in every biblically possible way to share the good news with a lost world. I think Kay Moll put it best when she said, “I am not so concerned about the role of women as I am the cause of Christ.”

________

 

1“Less than 2 percent of Old Testament prophecy is messianic. Less than 5 percent specifically describes the New Covenant age. Less than 1 percent concerns (end times) events.” Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 150.

2In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul says, “Women should remain silent in the churches.” But just a few chapters before, in 1 Corinthians 11, he had clearly made allowance for women to prophesy in church! Is he contradicting himself? No. The context of 1 Corinthians 14 would indicate he is excluding women from the authoritative teaching function of weighing prophecy in the assembly, not excluding them from uttering prophecy in the assembly. Weighing prophecy, it would seem, is likely reserved for the elders . . . who, as we shall see, are to be men. See D.A. Carson’s chapter in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991).

3“To have authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12 is also a present tense infinitive.

4Kenneth Wuest, The Pastoral Epistles in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 48.

 

Matt Proctor is president of Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri, and a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor.

________

‘Humility: The Bookends of Bible Study’

Alexander Campbell taught that a Bible student can come within “understanding distance” of God’s Word—Scripture’s meaning really can be grasped—but that no one stands perfectly in the center of that “circle of understanding” except God himself. None of us is an infallible interpreter. All of us must practice the hermeneutical principle of humility.

Mark Scott, former academic dean at Ozark Christian College, put it this way, “Humility bookends the hermeneutical task.” We begin and end our study in humility. That’s why we constantly revisit our exegesis and thinking. That’s why we never give in to the belief that we have hermeneutically “arrived,” and that’s why Scott once said, “In all my years of studying the Bible, I cannot remember a year that I did not, at some point, say, ‘I guess I was wrong about that.’” 

As a college faculty, our exegetical journey led us to an understanding that seemed faithful to all the biblical texts. However, we knew that other intelligent, orthodox, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christians had come to different conclusions. This gave us an opportunity to practice a core Restoration Movement principle: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”

While important, women’s roles in the church did not seem to be an essential of the faith. Since it was not a test of salvation, it would not become a test of fellowship. We would not label as liberals those who understood the Bible more permissively. Nor would we label as legalists those who saw women’s roles more prohibitively. 

Instead, we would listen to those who disagreed with us to see if our understanding could be improved. We would practice the principle of humility, and we would “in all things” love and respect our brothers and sisters in Christ.

—M.P.

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26 Comments

  1. Dave
    March 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    The passage in question in 1 Corinthians 11 seems to go against both the 1 Corinthians 14 and the 1 Timothy 2 passages—unless you read ‘every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head’ as a compound prohibition. In other words women shouldn’t: a) pray or prophesy or b) be uncovered in the Christian assembly.

  2. Delvin (Dee) Sweeney
    March 7, 2014 at 9:57 am

    The use or should I say misuse of Scripture shows presupposition in your study. This body must have started out to prove women can preach. I will only share two passages at this time. Luke 2:36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; This passage is from the early life of Jesus and falls under Old Testament Law. It therefore cannot be used as part and principle in the New Testament Church.
    Phoebe in only mentioned in the oldest of old King James as a deaconess. Most newer translations only call her a servant in the church. Romans 16:1. I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, To promote her as one who ever preaches in the church is a stretch at best. The book of Revelation warns us not to add to or take away from what is written. In presenting a “Preaching class” are you (OCC) now opening a window or a door to women preachers?

  3. March 7, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Thank you for articulating your position so clearly, reasonably, and Scripturally. One can not read the Bible without being impressed with the fact that the God of the cosmos is a God of order. I appreciate your careful approach in seeking to understand God’s order.

  4. Janet Petersen
    March 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Enjoyed the study on women preachers…you came to the same conclusion I did! However, I must say that I have taught Adult Sunday School Classes…which I really wasn’t comfortable doing exactly because of the scripture in Timothy …because there was no man who was willing to teach! I talked to the church board before I took the class and they expressed no problems with it. When our current minister came he and I had several discussions about this and eventually he took over teaching the class. I. being a loudmouth, do have lots of imput during the studies…and I actually enjoy being able to add insight, occasionally, to the study! A side note…when I was growing up we had a couple who were both preachers. They worked in 2 local towns…she was actually the best preacher…but they somehow shared the responsibility of leadership. Back in the 30’s and 40’s a woman preacher was somewhat unusual.

  5. Jim E Montgomery
    March 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Nice article and understanding of a useful question among us. I am curious about footnote # 3:

    A Greek-English dictionary tells one that the verb ‘to have authority’, which is properly offered in that footnote, was used this one time only in the NT text and further, that the verb means ‘to have authority for one’s own purpose’.

    Having chased many an article, listened to many a speaker on this topic among us and read somewhat extensively books on this hot button issue for the past few decades, I have learned that ‘one time use’ indicates a very special word; and, secondly, that to be intellectually honest, one ought to include a complete denotation, and not just a half… front or back.

    It seems Paul is saying a woman ought not to take authority over a man ‘for her own purpose’; which would allow such a woman to take ‘authority over a man’ when she does so under the auspices of purposes others have.

    Whether or not the idea express above can be somehow corrected, it ought to be considered in linguistics of this matter…

    I’ve never heard it so considered.

    Thanks for reading this far.

  6. Brittany
    March 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    I’m confused. How is this an academic study when the exegesis was conducted by the OCC faculty? A faculty that shows little to no signs of diversity – white, male, conservative in almost every facet with few exceptions (there are a few, but only recent ones). Add in different ethnicities, different political affiliations, and females to see if this comes out the same. Add in Christian teachers that don’t conform to every Ozark norm and see if the result holds true. Look at upstanding Christian schools, like Fuller Theological Seminary or Wheaton College, and take those opinions into account. Ask preachers and teachers and leaders outside of the Midwest. Read books written by people other than John Piper and Mark Driscoll and those within the same frame of thinking.

    Ozark does not promote diversity. It is a homogeneous bubble in which conservative evangelicals thrive. There is some allowed deviation from the middle – you can believe that the Earth is old, women can preach but not be preachers, and a tenet or two of Calvinism. However, if you strongly identify with Christian feminism, desire for women to be things other than wives or mothers alone, or wish to become a full-time pastor, forget about it.

  7. Darrell Jones
    March 11, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Matt,
    Great article. Our elders years ago came up with the same conclusion minus the Greek tenses.

    Very well done. Thanks for the way you handled it in humility as well.
    Darrell

  8. Jesse L. Burns
    March 11, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I graduated from Ozark Christian College in 2007 and Matt Proctor was my homiletics professor and President of OCC while I was a student there. I consider him to be a friend and respect him as well all the professors at the college. The faculty, men and women, were always fair and reasonable to me personally and I never felt that their ideas about women were ever bent toward keeping women in the home as mothers. I would even say that within the article itself Matt expresses that women have an invaluable place within the body of Christ. Being familiar with the faculty from 10 years ago, I know they didn’t enter this study lightheartedly or close minded. I recall the subject being broached within my classes as professors would challenge students to think for themselves and never take a generic answer from any one source but rather to seek out and be willing to accept answers that don’t always fit into modern expectations or political correctness. If you could meet Woody Wilkinson or Jackina Stark, Gerald Griffin or Chris Dewelt, Linda Lawson or Jeff Snell any who were there or are there now you would know their hearts for God’s Word, the body of Christ and the students of OCC. I very much appreciated the article and having been in ministry for some time now have had to answer this question many times to many different people. It is good to have a clear conscience on the subject.

  9. Lori
    March 12, 2014 at 1:21 am

    I loved teaching with the gracious, godly faculty members of OCC! This article sounds spot on to me. (Tho I always think of single lady missionaries I knew growing up who did it ALL: leading, preaching, teaching, marrying and burying. And I somehow don’t think God held it against them. :)) It’s true, it’s all about the cause of Christ. The greatest sin that could be committed here might be to put God in a box.

  10. Ernie Bryson
    March 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Hello,

    I came across your article and wanted to give a few comments.

    First, I agree with another person’s comments that OCC began this process already determined to get women to preach. Where does that mindset come from? It comes from the book of Genesis and the fall. In Genesis 3:16 the “desire” is not that Eve, or women, would love their husbands. That would not be much of a curse. The curse is that women will desire their husbands position, but God concludes that, “he shall rule over thee”. As part of the curse, there is a struggle between men and women. Men are to be the head and authority but because of the curse, women seek to subvert that position and authority. That is the source of those that would seek to put women in a position which they do not belong. And I would point out here, that, this is not so because men are far superior to women, they are far from it. It is so because God wants it that way. I should mention here that women are not some small lowly creatures for men to trample on. Oh, that the world was full of women as depicted in Proverbs 31. By the way, Proverbs 31 is the lesson of a mother to a son. Thank God for godly women.

    In your article, you overlooked to huge points. First, the Bible clearly teaches that the preacher is “God called”. Obviously, we have abandoned this concept today as we train uncalled men and apparently women to enter the ministry without considering if God called them or not. Paul told Timothy that God “Put” him into the ministry. The word deals with something being horizontal. Paul did not volunteer or walk into the ministry. He was put there by God. With that in mind, we find nowhere in Scripture that a woman received this calling.

    If, as you imply, it is ok for women to preach, why would Paul fail to include them in 2 Tim 2:2? This is an undeniable chain of men teaching men teaching men within the ministry.

    And finally, what of the qualifications of a Bishop/elder/preacher? Paul instructs both Timothy and Titus that the Elder/Bishop must be the husband of one wife. How could we possibly misunderstand this?

    By adding to or changing what God has established in His Word, we are proclaiming that God’s way is inadequate. It is no wonder why God’s people are being tossed to and fro. God’s ways are perfect. We need not change them or correct them. Thanks be to God for His Word, His church, His grace……

  11. Merle Pope
    March 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

    When the cultural winds blow it is not surprising that college banners are inclined to bow in the same direction, nor for them to produce creative doctrinal theories to keep all donors under the same big tent.

    As mother would say; “if one is inclined to expose their Greek underwear they should first be examined to see if they are clean.” However, it appears that a women “teaching or usurping authority” even “once” might well be described using a Greek present infinitive, just as the one event of the disciples “plunking and eating” (Matt 12:1), the one event of the woman “raining on Jesus feet” (Luke 7:38) and the one event of a blind man “crying” were all communicated using the Greek present infinitives.

    The idea that the use of the Greek infinitive in 1 Tim 2:12 would allow women to occasionally ” teach and usurp authority” (both present infinitives) is simply not founded.

  12. Jim E Montgomery
    March 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Matt, I still think you all did a good service to the Kingdom’s work. I also still agree with James D. Strauss, a 20th century Bible scholar of Lincoln ‘whatever-they-are-calling-it-today’, when he stated, at an NACC, that he ‘will pour cement; he will not pour concrete’! You seem to fall into the former; much more than the latter.

    Also, be aware of the biblicists among the disciples of Jesus. Anything found, or thought to be of value, outside the leather bindings of the King Jim Version, is an anathema. After all, that Bible was ‘good enough for Paul…’

    Be encouraged for along as you can stand it. Occasionally it is good to pop one’s head out of the foxhole and lob somthing reasonable out there! Hope you get the chance to read this far. Thanks!

  13. Mitzi Saltsman
    March 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    After reading all the comments I decided I needed to go back and read the article again. I was surprised by the extreme opposite opinions offered from the same reading.

    I was very pleased to read such a scriptural response to this issue instead of another article on someone’s opinion. It doesn’t matter how many opinions you put in the hat, they are all still opinions. To read a lot of Scripture in the conclusions is all that matters. Too often an article on this topic is just a lot of excuses. I’ve had women tell me that “Paul simply hated women” or that they would discuss their “call to the ministry” but not the Scriptures. And, just because God has given someone a talent for speaking … doesn’t mean they should!

    Back in the 1970s I majored in ministry at one of our Bible colleges because I wanted all of the speaking classes and there was no other way to accomplish this. It caused a bit of a stir and I had to get special permission from our president and department head. I had to explain to each one of my professors (who never had a girl in those particular classes before) just what I was doing there. The answer was the same as yours. I love teaching women and speaking at ladies meetings and retreats. As a preacher’s wife, those classes have helped me tremendously. I teach every single Sunday and organize our entire children’s program. My classes and training are the exact ones my husband took, but I have never aspired to be the preacher, simply because God said not to.

    Even before the Fall in Genesis, God created the man to be the head of his wife. I love that and it has nothing to do with a college offering me a chance to be trained as a speaker. Thank you taking such a godly, submissive approach to this study.

  14. Merle Pope
    March 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Greetings; The author “assumes” , or would have us to believe that Paul’s prohibition of women prophesying uncovered is spoken regarding assemble situations where men are present (1 Cor 11:1-16). However unlike Paul’s introduction on the Lord’s Supper which identifies an assembly situation (11:17), the text regarding women prophesying uncovered does not. There is nothing in the 1 Cor 11:1-16 text that even remotely suggests that women ever spoke in the assembly!

  15. Dwight Webster
    March 13, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I read, with interest, the article on women preaching written by Brian Mavis and Matt Proctor’s response as well as the comments on his response. While I am not an expert on this subject or a Greek scholar, I think I have a handle on the issues after reading the original article and the related responses mentioned. This subject is certainly a hot potato in the church and one that needs to be discussed. I was impressed that the original article and President Proctor’s response showed a great deal of thought and were well written.

    All of that being said, I am not comfortable with women preaching in churches that are part of the Restoration Movement for a number of reasons. I feel moved to share those reasons for consideration in this discussion.

    My first concern is that the “safe way” movement is pushing a point to allow what, at first glance, appears to be prohibited. In my ministry, I have emphasized that we will only know for sure the “not as safe” way is or is not acceptable to God when it is too late to make any changes.

    On the question of baptism, the Disciples of Christ accepts pouring or sprinkling as legitimate forms of baptism for those transferring in from denominational churches (although requiring immersion for new converts). While I have met some individuals who were sprinkled or poured whose dedication to the Lord exceeds many in the Restoration Movement, I would never condone sprinkling or pouring because we cannot know for certain whether God will accept or reject those alternative forms until it is too late to make any changes. What we do know for certain is that immersion is the safe way because it was authorized and commanded in the New Testament.

    Within our brotherhood, there are churches that have elders who have been divorced. Is that acceptable to God at least in special circumstances? Perhaps, but we will not know for sure until it is too late to go back and get it right if we are wrong. There are many ways a man who has been divorced can serve in the church. Taking a chance that God might not approve is taking an unnecessary risk that may have eternal consequences. That is the same stance I have regarding women preaching.

    My second concern is that the Restoration Movement will be seen as finally accepting what denominational churches accepted some time ago – something that clearly came about as a result of pressure from America’s enlightened society. Most, if not all, of those denominational churches have, under similar pressure, moved on to accept homosexuality as an alternative life style. At least some of those denominations now allow homosexuals to be leaders in their churches. Step-by-step, public opinion carries more weight than the Bible and has become the ultimate authority for these groups.

    Almost certainly some inside and outside the church will see the Restoration Movement as a movement that is slow to change but eventually falls in line with the latest thinking if we go down this path. Will they not conclude that it is only a matter of time before we follow the leaders in accepting homosexuality as well?

    I am also concerned with precedent that will at some point be used to justify the next step. Is it acceptable to prepare women to preach as long as they are not preachers? Perhaps, if we could be sure that limitation will stand. But will it stand? Do we truly believe the next step will not follow as sure as night follows day?

    While I understand the slogan, “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only.” and agree with it, I have felt that the Restoration Movement is a beacon of light for the safe way that, to me, is the only rational way given what is at stake. Now it appears that we are taking the first step on a slippery slope that reflects the slippery slope our country has been sliding down for some time. If we fail to take this step, will some ladies’ rights be trampled on? Perhaps, but is that a greater consideration than being on the safe side of the issue to insure that our eternal welfare and that of those we influence will not be jeopardized?

    Rayovac has advertised that their batteries are just as good as the leading brands. My experience has indicated otherwise. Denominational churches and the Catholic Church have argued sprinkling or pouring is just as good as immersion. Other, more recent, changes are undoubtedly seen as also “just as good” by these churches. “Just as good” makes me nervous. The safe way feels a lot better when eternity hangs in the balance.

    If, when we stand before the Lord, we find that God was fine with women preaching occasionally or even for women to be preachers or elders in the church, I feel certain God will understand our desire to take no chances in our efforts to obey him and will be fine with that. If, on the other hand, we find that God has a problem with our taking this step, it will be too late to go back and get it right. This “safe way” approach is gender neutral. It is about doing our best to fit in to God’s will to the best of our ability for all of us.

    True followers of Christ will bend over backwards to be sure they and all they influence are within God’s will – even if it means being at a lower level in the eyes of the world. As with divorced men, there are many ways women can serve God while still staying firmly on safe ground. We must never forget that we are dealing with eternity and that eternity is a very long time. Many who are convinced that they are right on a variety of issues will be surprised and dreadfully disappointed on judgment day. We don’t want any part of that.

    If it were up to me, I would take a different stand. But it is not up to me. It is my job as a preacher to keep the flock as safe as possible until that day that the Good Shepherd comes back. With that consideration in mind, I cannot get comfortable with this step no matter how well intentioned. That does not mean that I do not love and respect those who disagree with me, but it is and will be my position and my recommendation.

  16. Monte Shepherd
    March 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I think your article is very good, and leads to some proper conclusions. Having read it, I don’t believe it leads to the conclusion that preaching classes for women are necessary, desirable or scriptural.

    I Co. 11:5 does not recommend women “prophesying,” regardless of the meaning of that term. In fact, it may be an extreme example, emphasizing the importance of head covering under any circumstances. Doesn’t “prophecy” sometimes indicate “fore-telling” and revealing information from the Lord distinct from “preaching”?

    I do not believe the statement in I Timothy was meant to prohibit Christian women from speaking at any time or under any circumstances, either in “the church,” as a body, or in public services. That does not mean, however, that the Holy Spirit meant to say women were to be allowed to preach. I think the prohibition of female elders may also imply a similar prohibition on female preachers. Doesn’t your own statement equating the position of preachers and elders bear that out?

    Does not the grammatical approach, indicating that women are not to continually serve as teachers, lead logically to the conclusion that they should not continually serve as preachers? If so, what would be the purpose of teaching women to preach?

    It seems to me that allowing women in preaching classes will encourage an un-scriptural attitude and practice. This issue is already a source of confusion in many congregations. I think this practice at OCC will add to that confusion, and fuel a liberal attitude toward the ministry.

  17. Leslie
    March 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    It unfortunately does not strike me as odd that the adamant comments against women preaching come from men and for women from women. Every time I come to read articles like this where a genuine effort was made to understand the full context of scripture, people come in raging from both sides to slay the person most focused on rightly dividing the word of truth. If there is anyone pushing agenda here, it is certainly not Matt Proctor. To take this article and drag this somewhat ambiguous topic into the same category as homosexuality is ridiculous. It is based upon fear of judgment.
    Frankly, if you truly value scripture as the eternal authority, it would be wise at this juncture to focus on perfect love casting out fear, and the foolishness of arguing with a brother over tedious details. If God looks upon the heart above all, then He will judge us based not only upon our actions but upon our motives. When you attack this article based upon the premise of ulterior motives, you judge your brethren’s heart, not his actions, which you have NO authority to do, man or woman. Also, if you have acted poorly in a genuine effort to serve God well and to please him, would you not expect him to judge you by your pure motives?
    This was a genuine effort to find the middle ground truth, not for the sake of it being in the middle, but because the Truth often IS somewhere in the middle, precisely located in the center of God’s heart, which no man (OR woman) can know but through a dark glass.
    In all of this discussion, I heard not one mention of prayer. My only suggestion is that all parties pray and ask God to grant peace and forgiveness, for yourself and for your fellow believers, that we may all learn up close and by personal experience what GRACE means. Grace is not an uninformed gift. It is fully aware of the burnt crusts at the either end of the loaf, yet it still eats the bread and calls it life. My prayer is that you do the same instead of wondering if I am a man or a woman.

  18. Todd
    March 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    It’s kinda sad that an article on this subject generated more comments by readers than any other article all year considering the importance of other subjects that people could get in an uproar over. I love most things about the Restoration Movement, but sometimes people can really “strain the gnat and swallow the camel” in our churches.

    I’ve seen people make a pretty good case from the Scriptures either way on the subject of women preaching/teaching so for me it seems like one of those non-essential areas that we should have the freedom to disagree upon, especially since I doubt anyone is going to Hell because they allowed a woman to preach or not preach.

    Why don’t more people get in a uproar over issues that are plaguing our churches, like consumerism, instead of tolerating or even encouraging it. This consumer mindset is obviously the opposite of what Jesus teaches in the Scripture and is destroying the American Church from the inside out, and yet we ignore problems like this and would rather debate whether a woman should be allowed to preach or not.

    Just doesn’t seem right to me…

    (This comment is directed mostly to the readers, not the authors of the article. I think it’s a great article and will keep a copy for my files. Thanks for sharing your research!)

  19. Dale Blanshan
    March 22, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    And, I suppose, since the word for “exercise authority over” is also in the present tense infinitive, it is now Biblically proper for women to exercise authority over men in the assembly, as long as they don’t make a habit of it?

  20. Kevin
    April 17, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Matt,

    I wanted to leave you a quick note regarding this article and the follow-up from Cincinnati. First of all, I don’t know you but I know of you. I used to attend church with your brother Mark, and he is a great guy (I assume you are too). Regarding the article, I really appreciated your description of how you and the staff approached Scripture together with humility, and I think your hermeneutical approach to the text is sound with regard to the principles of harmony and history. I think this is a huge way your article differs in tone and hermeneutical approach with the response: it is written with a hermeneutic of humility, and I found the response to be dripping with arrogance.

    Though I agreed with Cottrell’s critique that your argument for the use of the aorist is incorrect (I was going to send a note addressing this before I read his article), I think he approached that and all his issues with your words in the complete wrong way. If we are to help each other as brothers, we have to do so with an attitude that we DON’T have it all figured out. And I certainly don’t. But from my study of Greek in seminary I believe the aorist is completely undefined, and our attempts to make use of it to say anything (whether past tense, a “once-for-all” action, etc.) are misguided. We can say that the present tense spoke of an ongoing action, but we cannot say anything about the aorist generally.

    Personally I feel that your argument ALMOST got there and the Greek got in the way. The other passages you found in the New Testament do indeed point to women prophesying and preaching just as men were, and the most important passage of all to me is the prophecies that were fulfilled in the inbreaking of the church: in Christ there is no longer male or female, Jew or Greek, etc. Sure, God made the genders unique. But in Christ they are of no import. We are literally genderless in Christ.

    When you said, “In all the talk about women preaching, don’t miss this important fact: women are also gifted and called to serve in many significant ways in the church’s life…”, many (like Cottrell) were apparently offended. I was offended strongly in the OPPOSITE way. Of course God has gifted women, but not ALSO! EQUALLY! Do we forget so easily that in Christ the genders are of no consequence??

    In using your hermeneutical approach we must understand that the talk about women learning in quietness, and only men being elders, and all of the other passages that seem to indicate that women are subservient to men–we must remember that 1, these passages were written in the context of a completely male-dominated culture and were intended first and foremost for those living in that culture (so the writers would have written with that context in mind) AND that 2, these passages must be interpreted among all of the other New Testament passages, many of which were revolutionary in their extremely high valuing of women (for that time and place). When we read that women prophesied, or that Junia and Phoebe were leaders in the church, or that Aquila was teaching a teacher, we should be blown away by the revolutionary nature of that. In our culture that would not be revolutionary; in the 1st century context this showed a ridiculously radical VALUING of women in comparison with their culture, where women were literally property.

    With this view, how can we not radically value women in our culture as well?? Your statement above indicates not a valuing of women in our culture but a reluctant admission that they might have something to offer too! Shame! Some of the most godly, Spirit-filled preachers I have ever heard have happened to be women. But then again–who cares? In Christ they are neither male nor female, just as I am. As a male, I am ashamed of our fearful reluctance to relinquish any power–didn’t our Teacher relinquish all power in order to save the world? Didn’t he show us not to fear giving up our power, that in laying down our authority over others and submitting we are empowered?

    This dialogue and many others like it, more than anything I have experienced, will keep me from ministering in the Christian Church again. I grew up in the movement and think it has a ton to offer the church at large, but it is so stunted in other ways that it will only give many a sour taste in their mouths regarding Christ. Christ came to set us free–not just from sin, but from the tyrannical cultural constraints that would limit who God made us to be. If God has gifted one of my daughters to preach, I will tell her every day of her life to preach on. No one can tell her God could only have called her to be an “occasional” preacher!

  21. April 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    We are not “genderless” in Christ. Rather we are males and males helpers, as in Mankind. We hare huMANs. God created MAN: male and female.

    Men and women are different, and men have one quality that women will never have. We and we alone set the moral tone for the culture. Call it male domination or whatever you want, but men will determine how women are treated, how the infirm are provided for, and the weak defended.

    Eve did all the talking, but it is in ADAM we all die, not EVE. Adam is blamed for bringing sin into the world because he did not stand between Eve and Satan and say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

  22. Kevin
    May 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I’ve written an extensive response to this for my teaching team but it’s too lengthy to go into here. Though your intentions are worthy, I must say the exegesis is suspect. The biggest error is on the word study level, where you try to equate two very different terms: “to prophesy” and “to teach.” Please see Grudem’s, *Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth*, pp. 227-232, where he deals with this egalitarian claim in sufficient depth. Thanks.

  23. Cliff Lykins
    April 16, 2015 at 12:59 am

    Torturing scripture to make it agree with a current popular opinion forced Michelangelo to put a horn on his Moses. I see more horns in the future of the NT Church if this trend is allowed to continue.

  24. Joseph Noble
    January 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Whoever wrote this article belongs in a circus because those were some crazy acrobatic skills just performed to avoid the clear and dry text that states a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man. In 1 Corinthians 14:34-37, it pretty much destroys this entire argument and supports the text in 1 Timothy 2. If anyone tries to overcomplicate the blatant message being taught here, it’s because they only seek man’s approval and not God’s.

    The text reads: The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.

    You either accept Paul’s words as the Lord’s commandant as he says they are or you throw away the entire Word of God and create your own false theology.

    Any other reasoning or interpretation is arrogant and demonic. (Not sorry for being this intense regardless of someone’s feelings or level of comfort)

  25. Administrator Author
    December 5, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    We received this note from Ben VanHyning and have decided to post it here.
    ________

    Our church is trying to do a year-long study on the role of women in ministry . . . responding to questions about female deacons. Is there biblical evidence either way to guide us in this decision? I would like to receive any information that would be helpful in assisting us in this endeavor.
    _______

    Respond to Ben at ben@noblefcc.com

  26. Rachel Owsley
    March 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    As a current student at Ozark, I am so proud of our president and the care and thought that he, and the rest of the faculty, have put into this discussion on women preaching. I have taken this preaching class for women and I loved what I was able to learn from it! I do not plan on going on from Ozark and becoming a lead pastor at a church, but I have learned how to better communicate the Gospel. Ozark exists to train men AND women for Christian service and part of that is being effective communicators of the Good News and this class does that for the women on our campus. The class doesn’t teach us how to be lead pastors, it teaches us how to effectively and clearly preach a Gospel message. Everyone should be able to do that.

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