The Role of Women in the Body of Christ
Part of the recent turmoil within the Anglican community is related to the prospect of women being appointed as bishops. However it is not just the Anglicans that are exercised over the role of women and there are as many opinions and deeply-seated views on the subject with the body of Christ in Scotland.
first published 09/02/10 - video added 04/03/11
Ed Preface: REFORM is a body of Anglican evangelicals currently fighting to maintain biblical standards within the church. It is seeking to prevent women from becoming bishops, and the organisation has produced a bi-fold leaflet on the role of women in the life of faith entitled:
The Role of Women in the Local Church:
Equal but Different
THE Bible teaches that both men and women are made in the image of God and as a result are equal before Him in terms of their status, dignity and humanity (Gen 1:27). They are also equal inheritors of the promises God made to Abraham (Gal 3:26-29), because there is now no distinction between Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female. There is also no distinction between men and women on how spiritual gifts are distributed (see 1 Cor 12:7) although, when it comes to teaching gifts, there are differences in how these gifts are to be used.
Jesus' revolutionary attitude
Jesus' attitude to women was revolutionary for His day and clearly upheld the equality of men and women. He spoke to women in public; He valued their companionship and their service; He taught them and commended Mary for making His teaching a priority when other responsibilities might have distracted her from listening to Him
(Luke 10:41). In the Gospels, women are the ?rst eyewitnesses to the resurrection and were told to tell others what they had seen (see Matthew 28:7, Mark 16:7 and John
20:17), even though a woman's testimony was not thought to be reliable in law courts at the time. There is no doubt that Jesus highly valued the ministry of women and, like Paul, com- mended them for their service of the gospel. But Jesus did not appoint women as His apostles - a unique foundational role reserved for a select group of men (Acts 1:21-26) and Paul never appointed women to be overall leaders of the local church (see 1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Women have a unique contribution to make to the life of the local church but it is not the same as the role of men.
Modelled by the Trinity
But why, when so much of His treatment of women was revolutionary for His day, did Jesus not introduce identical roles for men and women in the local church? In our day and age it seems almost incredible that equality of status doesn't also mean equality of function. The answer to this question lies at the very heart of the Godhead itself. In the Trinity we see a pattern of relationships that shows us how it's possible for equality of being to co-ex ist with diversity of function. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are equal in status but each has a different function. Moreover, there is a definite ordering of their relationships - so God the Son submits Himself to His Father's will (Mark 14:36, John 6:38) and God the Holy Spirit submits both to the Father's will and the Son's will (see John 14:16-17, John 14:26 and John 16:13-15).
Family life and church family life
It is this pattern of relationships that is to be modelled in family life and in church family life as God orders His creation to reflect the ordering of relationships within the Godhead itself (1 Cor 11:3). Because of the order and purpose of their creation, wives are to submit to their husbands in everything in recognition of the fact that husbands are head of the family as Christ is head of the church (Eph 5:22-24). Similarly husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. This is the way God has ordered their relation ships with each other and Christian marriage cannot function well without it. Yet this does not mean they are not equal - each of them needs the other to play their part if their marriage is to re? ect the way the Lord Jesus Christ relates to His bride, the Church (Eph 5:25-33).
When it comes to roles within the church family, the same pattern of relationships applies. Because of the order and purpose of their creation, men are to have leadership responsibilities that women do not share. It is not appropriate for a woman to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim 2:11-13) although it is entirely appropriate for a woman to teach and train other women (Titus 2:3-5). In fact, there is a role here that is uniquely theirs, as while men can teach the Bible to women, they cannot always model it in practice.
The areas needing to be modelled effectively constitute three different spheres of life - the ?rst involves relationships within the family, the second involves purity and self-control and the third involves the whole area of work. Men are needed to model to other men what it means to be godly in these areas but only women can model to women what it means to be godly women. The complementarity of men and women in ministry is therefore as important as it is for husbands and wives in marriage, as each needs the other to do their part. Only then will the people of God be properly pastored by the Word of God.
It is encouraging to see how churches within the Reform network are recognising this and employing women to their staff teams who teach and train other women. All male church teams are in danger of limiting the effectiveness of their ministry because they cannot adequately model how to live in a godly way to women. In the same way that a family works well with both parents taking responsibility for the teaching and training of their children, it is important that the church family has men and women involved in the teaching and training of their congregations - within the parameters set out in Scripture.
More difficult passages to consider
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
While men and women can pray and prophesy in public it seems that the way in which they do so needs to re? ect their gender differences and model male headship. Some would argue that women can therefore preach/prophesy from time to time although not all evangelicals are convinced that this is compatible with the prohibition in 1 Tim 2.
1 Corinthians 14:26-35
This cannot be a blanket prohibition on women speaking or Paul is contradicting what he has said in chapter 11. It would seem that women should remain silent in the public weighing of prophecy or if their questions could legitimately be answered by their husbands at home.
1 Timothy 2:14
Paul has just warned Timothy to avoid the false teaching of two men (1 Tim 1:19-20) so this cannot mean that women are more likely to lead the church into error - if that were so why would Paul encourage them to teach women? Verse 14 seems to follow straight on from the reasoning of the preceeding verse [1 Tim 2:13] and serves as an example of the disorder that ensues when God's law is disobeyed.
1 Timothy 2:15
The "but" in v15 seems to set up a contrast here. Paul has just said it's inappropriate for women to have the role of teaching men but it is appropriate for women to have the role of bearing children and raising them. Paul is not saying that all women will have children anymore than he's saying that all men will be church leaders.
For further reading:
Women in the Church – Derek Prime (Published by Kingsway)
Biblical Womanhood – Sarah Young (Published by CBMW)
Women, Creation & the Fall – Mary Kassian (Published by Crossway)
Biblical Manhood & Womanhood – Piper & Grudem (Published by Crossway)
Author: Carrie Sandom is the 'student's curate' at St Andrew's the Great, Cambridge.
Reform is a network of Anglican Evangelicals committed to reforming the life, thought and practice of the Church of England according to the Bible.
The Anglican church is split in different ways over the issue of women (priests and) bishops. Low (evangelical) Anglicans believe that the Bible teaches that women should not be in authority over men.
High Anglicans (mainly liberal and Anglo-Catholic) see the ordination of women as a break in tradition and an impediment to fuller communion with the Roman Catholic Church. In the main, these two groups are at the opposite ends of the theological spectrum but they are essentially fighting the same battle albeit for different reasons. Yet others see the issue on a humanist/gender basis. The same tensions and demarcation lines apply on the issue of sexuality. If a split does take place it will likely be multifarious and extremely messy.
And Rome is waiting in the wings.
But lest Scotland be self-righteous, there are many occasions when women who serve abroad as missionaries are permitted (even encouraged) to take up forms of service (ministry) in a way which would cause huge uproar were they located at home.
Reform Press Release 08/02/10
REFORM HIGHLIGHTS ‘HUGE PRACTICAL PROBLEMS’ WITH WOMEN BISHOPS
The Church of England’s present plans for legislation on women bishops show that “nothing is being done to head off the huge practical problems” that will result said Reform Chairman, the Rev Rod Thomas, today. Speaking on the day that the Bishop of Manchester was reporting on the issue to the General Synod, Mr Thomas said that the biggest problem would be a “drastic cut” in the Church of England’s future intake of young ordinands.
The Reform Chairman was commenting on an open letter issued to Synod members today by 50 Church of England ministers who have links with Reform. Drawn from churches of varying sizes across England, they say that in the last ten years they have sent over 180 men into ordained ministry, of whom more than 50% were under the age of 30. They have also contributed more than £22 million to the Church of England’s finances.
The ministers say that if future legislation fails to provide adequately for them, then they would have to encourage new potential ordinands to consider training for ministry outside the Church of England and to help them financially to do that. Churches would also need to consider establishing charitable trusts to finance their own ministries in the longer term. These costs would inevitably put a “severe strain” on their continuing ability to contribute to the Church of England.
The signatories represent just some of those who are concerned over the current lack of provision for opponents of women bishops. The letter points out that their opposition is based on the pattern the Bible gives both for relationships in the home and the church. They say that they cannot see how, as Bible teachers, they can do other than put into practice what they believe the Bible to be teaching.
Rod Thomas said: “The current absence of any proposal from the General Synod’s Revision Committee to guarantee a future place for our views within the Church of England is causing great concern.”
Reform has more than 1,300 members, of whom more than 350 are ordained clergy. Many others are known to be sympathetic to its concerns.
To view a copy of the letter with list of signatories see Reform web site or -
Monday 8th February 2010
Dear Bishops and Synod members,
As 50 incumbents of Church of England churches we are writing to say why, in our view, the consecration of women bishops would be a mistake and would raise for us great difficulties of conscience and practice, as well as being wrong for our Church as a whole.
Our concern is derived from Scripture. It seems to us that the Apostolic teaching on male headship in church and family (as in 1 Corinthians 11-14, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3) is clear enough in its principles: overall leadership in the church is to be exercised by men. The fierce debates that have surrounded the gender issue over the last twenty years or so have stimulated much careful analysis of these texts, and have only served to show that mainstream translations such as NRSV, NIV, REB and ESV are correct in their translation and may (and should) be taken as they stand.
It is, of course, right to say that these passages in Paul and Peter have a particular cultural setting; but to make them prisoners of that culture and thus unable to challenge our culture, seems to us implicitly to deny the authority of Scripture. It is surely the genius of the New Testament that what was spoken in a particular context is at one and the same time also God’s word to us. Far from being a prisoner of his culture, Paul is not afraid to challenge it, warning his readers “not to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Eph 4:17). Why, then, is it assumed he will uncritically reflect their values on this issue of gender?
Therefore we think the historic, reasoned reflection of Christians down the ages (including the historic position of the Church of England) has been correct; we fear that the current pressure to overturn it comes not for biblical reasons but because we are losing our nerve in the face of pressure from society.
In saying all this, we emphasise again that we are NOT for a moment saying women are less valuable than men, and nor does the Scripture. This, in our experience, is the point which we find hardest to communicate, since the world about us equates value with power. Just by making this point we are thought to be “anti-women”. On the contrary, it is both possible and right to affirm that we are “all one in Christ Jesus”, while at the same time affirming different roles. For the Bible separates roles and worth: our Lord Jesus himself submitted to the Father, but is, of course, no less God than he is.
There are, of course, questions about how precisely to honour this teaching in some details of the life of our churches today, but few would doubt, surely, that the office of bishop is indeed very much a leadership function!
In our own churches we are glad to teach these passages of Scripture as they stand, and include a ‘complementary’ view of gender roles in our teaching on marriage, family life and church. Gently ordering our shared life this way is, in our view, vital to our witness to a Christian understanding of family life. Our churches contain many members - and very many women as well as men - who are glad of this teaching, which is all the more important in a world which is so confused about gender roles and sexuality in general. In such a context, the oversight of a woman bishop would be enormously hard to explain, however great her merits in other regards. Again and again, in our youth groups, at marriage preparation and whenever covering the relevant passages in homegroups and from the pulpit, we would find ourselves having to answer people’s question, “Why does the Church of England go against this?” This would fester on for as long as people have Bibles in their hands.
In the end, this is an issue about our view of Holy Scripture, and this is why it matters to us so much, as ministers of the Word.
As matters stand, it seems likely that General Synod will be invited to vote on legislative proposals that threaten our ministries. An illustration of the practical problems we will face should a Measure fail to provide adequate safeguards, can be seen with future ordinands. At the moment we are encouraging young men into the ordained ministry in the knowledge that they cannot be discriminated against if they hold convictions about male headship. While this remains the case, we have encouraged them to believe that there is a worthwhile future for their ministries in the Church of England. However, we will be unable to do this if inadequately protective legislation is passed. The issue that will then arise is how to encourage these men to develop their ministries if they cannot do so within the formal structures of the Church of England. The answer must be to encourage them to undertake training for ministries outside those formal structures, although hopefully still within an Anglican tradition. We will, of course, have to help them with the financing of their training.
Our congregations will inevitably start asking questions about their own place within the Church of England if they see us encouraging people into training for alternative ministries. This will come into sharp focus when the issue of succession to an incumbency arises. Since we cannot take an oath of canonical obedience to a female bishop, we are unlikely to be appointed to future incumbencies. We see nothing but difficulty facing us. In these circumstances we will have to discuss with our congregations how to foster and protect the ministry they wish to receive. This is likely to generate a need for the creation of new independent charitable trusts whose purpose will be to finance our future ministries, when the need arises.
These twin developments will need to be financed from current congregational giving. This will inevitably put a severe strain on our ability to continue to contribute financially to Diocesan funds. Where we are unable to contribute as before some will see this as a form of retaliation. However, that could not be further from the truth. We long to contribute to the well being of the Church of England. Over the last ten years we have encouraged more than 180 young men into the ordained ministry, over 50% of whom were under the age of 30. We have together contributed a gross figure of more than £22million to Diocesan funds.
Finally, for those of us ordained since 1992, our understanding, in good faith, was that proper legal provision would be made for those who did not agree that women should have the overall leadership of a church (Resolution B, etc). It seems to us a matter of simple integrity that Synod should now keep its word to us in this and not force us down a road none of us wish to tread.
Yours in Christ,
Rev’d Rod Thomas St Matthew’s Elburton, Exeter
(Chairman of Reform)
and 49 other signatories, which follow -
Rev’d Michael Andreyev St Peter’s Stapenhill, Derby
Rev’d Nigel Atkinson St John’s Knutsford, Chester
Rev’d Simon Austen St John’s and St Peter’s, Carlisle
Rev’d Martin Bailey All Saints Riseley, Peterborough
Rev’d Iain Baker St Thomas Kidsgrove, Lichfield
Rev’d Hugh Balfour Christ Church Peckham, Southwark
Rev’d David Banting St Peter’s Harold Wood, Chelmsford
Rev’d Neil Barber St Giles Normanton, Derby
Rev’d Robert Bashford St James Westgate,Canterbury
Rev’d John Birchall Christ Church Surbiton Hill, Southwark
Rev’d Iain Broomfield Christ Church Bromley, Rochester
Rev’d Mark Burkill Christ Church Leytonstone, Chelmsford
Rev’d John Cheeseman Holy Trinity Eastbourne, Chichester
Rev’d CJ Davis St NicholasTooting, Southwark
Rev’d Steve Donald St John the Evangelist, Carlisle
Rev’d Richard Espin-Bradley St Luke’s Wolverhampton, Birmingham
Rev’d Jonathan Fletcher Emmanuel Church Wimbledon,Southwark
Rev’d Simon Gales St John s Lindow, Chester
Rev’d David Gibb St Andrews Leyland, Blackburn
Rev’d David Harris St Leonards, Exeter
Rev’d Clive Hawkins St Mary’s Eastrop, Winchester
Rev’d Chris Hobbs St Stephen’s Selly Park, Birmingham
Rev’d Christopher Hobbs St Thomas Oakwood, London
Rev’d Jonathan Juckes St Andrew’s Kirk Ella, York
Rev’d Jeremy Leffler St Ambrose Widnes, Liverpool
Rev’d James Leggett St James, Ryde, Portsmouth
Rev’d Ian Lewis St Bartholomews, Bath
Rev’d Angus MacLeay St Nicholas Sevenoaks, Rochester
Rev’d Julian Mann Oughtibridge Parish Church, Sheffield
Rev’d Ed Moll St George’s Wembdon, Bath
Rev’d Darren Moore St Catherine’s Tranmere, Chester
Rev’d Ken Moulder St Oswalds, Newcastle
Rev’d Robert Munro Cheadle Parish Church, Chester
Rev’d Alasdair Paine Christ Church Westbourne, Winchester
Rev’d Andrew Raynes Christ Church, Blackburn
Rev’d Mike Reith Dagenham Parish Church, Chelmsford
Rev’d Vaughan Roberts St Ebbe's, Oxford
Rev’d Simon Scott All Saints Little Shelford, Cambridge
Rev’d John Simmons Christ Church Chadderton, Manchester
Rev’d Simon Smallwood St George’s Dagenahm, Chelmsford
Rev’d Will Stileman St Mary’s Maidenhead, Oxford
Rev’d William Taylor St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London
Rev’d Melvin Tinker St John's Newlands, York
Rev’d Alistair Tresidder St Luke's Hampstead, London
Rev’d Philip Venables St Andrew’s Bebington,Chester
Rev’d Stephen Walton St Michaels’s Marbury, Chester
Rev’d Tim Ward Holy Trinity Hinkley, Leicester
Rev’d Mike Warren St Peters Tunbridge Wells, Rochester
Rev’d Gordon Warren St Anne’s Limehouse, London
(The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev’d Wallace Benn, also wishes to be associated with this letter)
Reform/Christians Together, 22/07/2013