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What is the role of women in the family and church today?  Who is the final authority in a marriage - the husband or the husband?  Does God call women to by pastors?

The Role of the Christian Women in the Family, Church and Society

By: Rev. Larry D. Ellis

Many Christians, both women and men, believe very fervently that, while husbands should certainly love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it, God has divinely appointed the husband to be the one who makes the final decision in matters within the family. Many of these men would seek the advice of their wives, especially if the husband was not well informed on the issue. However, should the husband and wife disagree, he would make the decision and his wife should gratefully submit to his God-appointed decision-making authority. They say that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. The wife receives the benefit of the husband's oversight and spiritual protection. If a woman remains single, this role is to be provided by her father or some other older married male. This is believed to be the God-ordained authority structure for the family.

These men and women would also, naturally, carry this paternal authority from the home into the church. Therefore, women, however gifted are precluded from shouldering the ultimate responsibility for decision-making in the family or the church. Women would certainly be encouraged to teach both the female and male children both in home and in the church, but they would be restricted from teaching adult men in either venue. After all, these proponents will be quick to point out that Paul did not allow women to teach or have authority over men. Clearly they would acknowledge that men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God, but that God has appointed different roles for them within the family and church. A logical corollary to this thinking is that within the Christian church, women should not be ordained or be placed in any position of authority over men. This would certainly preclude women from being priests and pastors or at least senior pastors. It would also preclude them from being elders or deacons, if these are the decision-making body within the church. They see a thoroughly consistent reading, interpretation and application of these doctrines. God has not changed his position since the Apostle Paul was teaching and therefore, these prohibitions then are still what God has ordained for today and the future. Some churches even excuse women from the congregational meetings, since they would not be authorized to vote on pending matters. The women (and also the men) must rely entirely on the males in the church for discernment of the Lord's will on these church matters. Because these Christians believe that their conviction on these issues is rooted in Holy Scripture, and they desire to be Christians obedient to God, they will not yield to today's egalitarian politically correct values, which to not subscribe to these divinely-appointed Christian roles.

If you asked many of these same Christians, what are the best biblical passages to affirm a different position from this, they often cannot think of any biblical support that would do so. They have enthusiastically read bible teaching that support the patriarchal model but have not similarly read bible teaching by authors who have come to a very different theological position, through their study of the scriptures. In fact some of these persons find it amazing that anyone who says that they study the scriptures could ever come to a position that disagrees with their own patriarchal point of view. Clearly, they believe that these theological liberals must have embraced (or fallen into) today's culture and political correctness rather than endorse what is clearly God's biblical role for women.

Just as my brothers and sisters with whom I have now come to disagree, I recognize the social pressure to accept the values of our progressive thinking on equal pay for equal work, education and experience and legal equality in many areas of our society for both sexes. However, the strength of these pressures pale when compared to being faithful to what I believe is God's plan for our lives together as revealed in Holy Scripture. There are those who are fueled by great senses of injustice against women both in and out of the church. These may very well be valid processes by which they come to their impassioned conclusions, which might in many ways appear to be consistent with mine. However, that is not the arena that I, personally, find compelling, should it be inconsistent with what I believe is taught in the scripture. I believe that the Holy Spirit can confirm the truth that God has revealed through his scripture to each one of us. A myopic and non-investigative learning process is a sad indictment against the formation of a mature Christian thinking process. The indictment is not just the limitation of options for women in ministry, but that these persons have never studied and researched the scriptures to understand a view, which is in opposition to their unquestioned view. If one's theological conclusions are inconsistent with someone else's, and the critic cannot explain what they see to be problems in the other person's understanding, they have not gone very deep into their own learning process. The author believes that Godly Christians can differ on certain spiritual matters even after considerable prayer and study. This topic appears to be one of those arenas. However, when one pursues spiritual insight, under the direction of the scripture and the Holy Spirit, they should not be afraid to study an opposing view; rather they might even be challenged to do so, in order to gain a deeper understanding. It is the author's desire to stimulate discussion on this very important issue and show that one who has a very high value of the scriptures can come to a set of very different conclusions on many of these matters from the patriarchal view described above.

Ultimately, each of us is accountable to God for his or her beliefs as well as their actions. It is this personal spiritual discernment process, scripture study and evaluation of our own individual track of orthodoxy that brought to the surface such actions as Martin Luther's disagreement with numerous the Roman Catholic Church policies that ultimately produced the Protestant Reformation and John Wesley's formation of spiritual clubs at Oxford, while he remained in the Anglican Church, a vision that was well outside the mainstream of his church, the formation of many church denominations as well as countless other spiritual emphases. Simply replicating the only position that we have been taught will not be very convincing, when we are given the opportunity to discuss this issue with others, nor will it ever bring us to the same intensity of personal convictions as when we have embraced truth through a critical eye and heart, even if the end result is the same.

The author will examine some of the passages that are commonly used to restrict the opportunities to women. He will give explanations that he finds very encouraging toward the call to ministry of women in the kingdom of God. These ideas are not meant to be exhaustive on the subject, but instead to show that the "traditional" role of women will be challenged with a more detailed look at these scriptures. The translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures is an immensely difficult task. We are fortunate to have a number of excellent translations. Nonetheless, many times English translation of the scriptures can modify the meaning of the original texts, due to the many nuances of languages. This is also compounded as the vernacular use of English changes from generation to generation. Even the most accurate of translations into a second language can introduce nuances into a text especially as the culture and language changes both geographically and over time and certainly between different cultures. Examination of a few passages and studies of some of these key words will prove quite enlightening and helpful in our pursuit of truth on this very important subject.

Head of, submit to, love

Ephesians 5:21-33 (KJV) says, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord of the church; for we are member so his body, of his flesh, and his bones. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverences her husband."

The opening verse is often translated, "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." This theme of being subject to one another is extended from this opening verse to those that follow and deals with a wide variety of relationships. It starts with the mutuality between husbands and wives. Husbands and wives are exhorted to be subject to one another. This was in sharp contrast to the practice and traditions of that day. The text then calls children to honor and obey their parents as well as exhorting parents to not provoke their children. It continues exhorting slaves to be subject to their earthly masters and concludes with the statement "Masters, do the same to them" (their slaves.) The passage supports mutually based adult relationship operating with loving consideration of each other. In Galatians 3:28 the Apostle Paul said, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are now one in Christ Jesus." In the context of the chapter we see that Paul is not saying that we no longer have two sexes or that we no longer have slaves and masters. He is saying that the gift God of eternal life both transcends all these distinctions and that each of us is on equal standing with God no matter what our earthly heritage or circumstances are. God does not see the class or gender distinctions that we see within our own cultures. In fact he calls us to the same frame of reference by saying that we are all one in Christ.

Again, in this Ephesians 5 passage Paul, does not reference authority or dominance but does say be subject to one another. However, the subject of authority between a husband and wife is specifically addressed in I Corinthians 7 as it relates to their sexual relations. "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time." If the wife were expected by God to "submit" to her husband in all things, this would be squarely in conflict with what Paul taught the husband about his body. Fortunately for both, there is no command for the wife to unilaterally submit nor is there any command to the husband to make certain his wife is in submission to him or anyone else.

Head of the wife…

Paul explains in Ephesians 5 that, "The husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church." In English the word head refers to the physical head of one's body. In addition it also connotes and denotes being the boss, the one who is in charge of the agenda. There is a Greek word for this concept that is translated head in English. The word is arche. It is the one recognized by all who is charged with the responsibility of deciding. It means "head" in terms of leadership and also point of origin. It is used when referring to the beginning in the sense of the first or point of inception. We use this Greek word as a prefix in words such as archaeology, archetype and archives. It was also used for head in the sense of headwaters of a river. Arche was also used when denoting the 'first" in terms of importance. We still use it as a prefix in such words as archangel, archbishop, archenemy, and archduke. These all refer to leadership. It is used throughout the New Testament, including writings by Paul to designate the head or leader of a group of people such as "chief", "prince", and "ruler". If Paul believed that husbands should command their wives and rule over then, Paul could have used the word arche. He was well aware of the word arche when he wrote of how the husband was to be head of the wife, but he deliberately chose a different word. This is very consistent with Paul's teaching that the husband should love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her.

There is no such authoritarian meaning present in the word used here in the text. The Greek word actually used here by Paul was kephale. This also can mean the head of the body but not in the sense of boss. It was also used to mean "foremost" in terms of position (as a cornerstone in a foundation or capstone over a door. It was never used to mean leader, boss, chief or ruler. Kephale is also a military term. It means one who leads, but not in the sense of director, General or Captain or someone who orders the troops from a safe distance. Its meaning is quite the opposite. A kephale was the one who is out front in the sense of the soldiers who are at the front lines of battle or even out doing reconnaissance gathering information to bring back to the troops in order to make certain the mission can be accomplished. In these images there actually is no intention of the husband being the one who is in primary authority. The husband is called to the front lines in support and protection of his wife.

These two words in Greek can both be translated head in English. One means "boss" and the other means "physical head" or "the first soldier into battle". Unfortunately, an English-speaking person who reads that the husband is the head of the wife will infer that the husband is to rule over the wife. This is what Aristotle taught and most Hellenized people thought. It was certainly the cultural practice of the day. The husband was an arche to his wife, head of the household and ruler over all his family. Paul deliberately went against the culture and religious tradition and used a very different word. Sadly, people who rely only on an English translation cannot know this due to the present connotation of the word head.

The author believes that a fundamental consequence of Jesus' earthly ministry here is to elevate womanhood to equal status with manhood in the family, church and society. Jesus initiated the liberation of women from the cultural strongholds that perpetuated self-deprecating mindset in the women of the day. The males in society ran the Jewish, Greek and Roman secular and sacred societies. Women seldom if ever challenged this structure. They had no individual or collective economic, political or social power. Many men both then and now have generally maintained the status-quo, enjoying self-indulgence while their wives essentially maintain two full-time jobs and generally work more hours than do most men. The author believes that women do not simply have equal value with men but different roles in the family and church. The roles or the ministry to which one is called is determined by God's call to us individually, not one's gender.

The husband is not accountable to God for the spirituality of his wife. "Every person will give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12) The husband is not called to pontificate anything within the family. Nowhere in scripture is he called to be the intermediary between his wife and God or his wife and anyone else. He is never instructed to insist that she blindly go along with his opinions or to embrace his convictions without examination. It is ironic that the very passage where Paul teaches the early church to bring unity and mutuality into marriage relationships is widely used to denounce it and perpetuate the cultural and religious tradition of a patriarchy.


The husband is no more expected to autonomously make the financial decisions than the wife is expected to autonomously conceive their children. However, he is called to love his wife like Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) That means that the husband's love and devotion to his wife is so unassuming that he does not insist upon his own way. He is to be patient, kind, not arrogant or rude. (I Corinthians 13:4) His love is voluntarily given to his wife, just as Christ voluntarily gave his life for us. "But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Jesus' prayer to his Father in heaven in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was betrayed is such an example of this love. Jesus did not want to die for the church. He prayed that he would not have to do this. Yet, he loves us all and his Heavenly Father so much he voluntarily yielded his life to the Roman injustice and his Father's plan so that we would be given eternal life. This is the scope and intensity of sacrificial love that Paul is talking about - not about the husband being the boss of the wife. The challenge of this voluntary unconditional love to which God has called the husband is quite a sufficient challenge for all husbands to take on. There is no need to enlarge the circle of responsibilities beyond that which God has ordained within our marriage relationships.

Helper, Chronology of Creation

Genesis 2:18 is typically translated "The Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." The word helper is the Hebrew word ezer. In English the word "helper" or "helpmeet" implies a position of subordinance - one being directed by someone in authority over the helper, guiding their actions so as to accomplish the desired task in a wisely-supervised manner. However, the word ezer does not connote an inferior or subordinate status. In fact, when it is not referring to Eve, it appears seventeen times in the Old Testament, and each time it refers to God. Certainly no one believes God to be subordinate to humankind and likewise one should not infer from this passage that women should be subordinate to men.

The first three chapters of Genesis about Adam and Eve give rise to some common social extrapolations that are often applied to the entire human race. Some argue that since Adam was made before Eve, Adam (male) is superior to Eve (female). It is fascinating that no one carries us to the logical conclusion that cows are superior to man, since cows were created before men and women, and that fish are superior to cows since they were created first. Also some give significance to the order in which the first couple fell to temptation, drawing an inference that since Eve sinned first, women are more easily led into error than men are. Since Adam was tempted by Eve, clearly women constitute a moral threat to men. Some would also infer that women are morally more vulnerable and easily led astray than men.  Even if this should be true, women would not be any less responsible than men to God for their choices and actions. Remember Romans 14:12.  The passage could just as easily suggest that husbands and wives are meant to provide each other with moral fortitude, and when this fails, sin can enter into their relationship and change it. A second interpretation suggests that the serpent deliberately chose Eve because she was the stronger, not the weaker of the two. After all, it took all of the skill of the tempter to lead Eve to sin, while a simple act of handing the forbidden fruit to Adam was sufficient to lead him to sin. The serpent may have chosen the stronger of the two, knowing that if she fell for his line, the other would follow her example. A third interpretation focuses on the result of the sin for the couple, in which she now desires him and he rules over her. If this kind of marital relationship, far from being divinely ordered, is the product of sin and God's curse, then it is to be avoided rather than commended. It is characteristic of marriage outside of God's grace. To prescribe this kind of relationship is to advocate living under the penalty of sin imposed on Adam and Eve, as if Christ brought nothing new to our marriage relationships.

Teaching and Spiritual Leadership

In First Timothy 2:12, Paul writes that "I do not permit woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence". The statement is actually in the present tense and could be translated "I do not presently permit …." However, in I Corinthians 11, he assumes that women will both pray and prophesy (what today would be thought by many to mean preaching). His concern in Corinth is that, when women speak in church, they should have their head covered as a sign of purity and modesty. Even today there is a vestige of this culture that says veil or covering is considered respectable attire for women in public. The Orthodox Church certainly maintains this tradition along with certain Roman Catholic orders. Even today in many conservative Muslim cultures women still must embrace this strict dress code.  In one congregation Paul says he does not permit women to speak and in another he affirms their speaking and preaching. (Acts 2:18 also see Joel 2:28-29.) Depending on the local situation with each congregation - Paul's specific practices dramatically differ. We do not have any detailed explanation from him as to why he established these differences, but scripture is clear that Paul affirmed both. It is common for a lot of bible teachers who use these passages to argue so strongly for women's subordination and non-speaking in worship conveniently ignore what the same passages say about dress codes and hair styles-veils and long hair in I Corinthians as well as braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly clothing prohibited in I Timothy. The array of evangelical women you see on Christian television attest to the fact that our fundamentalist friends don't take the Bible very literally as they might say or at best they are selectively literal! If those things are applicable only to certain cultures either the first century where abuses were prevalent, which the author believes that they are, then none of these recommendations should be interpreted to be universally true. Patriarchal anarchy and sexism belong to the first century. Paul took steps to change the politically correct right of males control into a new era. The great new revolutionary principles of New Testament Christianity were not fully realized within first century culture, nor in our own time, but fortunately, change had begun.

Although we see no women specifically identified as pastors in the New Testament, neither do we see any men specifically identified as pastors. The author believes that God can and does call some women to teach their male peers and even serve as their pastor. Women can be called to the ministry of deacon and elder within the church community. Principles and themes within the scripture as well as examples support these "non-orthodox" callings by God. Women have been the backbone of virtually all Christian churches, Christian communities, and missionary work around the world. They pray, teach, call on the sick, share their faith, organize others in ministry, lead ministries of music, write Christian teaching literature and serve on the mission fields throughout the world. These ministries are widespread for both single and married women throughout Christendom in almost all denominations. Well known Baptist missionaries like Lottie Moon (to China) and Mother Theresa, thousands of other Roman Catholic nuns, and millions of other Christian women have given their lives to serve Christ. In spite of these, the roles which require ordination (priests, pastors, elders and deacons) have traditionally been denied to women in many churches. Also in some circles the teaching of men by women is not permitted, although ordination is not relevant here. In one of the churches, the Apostle Paul did instruct that women were not to teach men and that women were to learn in silence. We will look more in detail and in context of this isolated event. The author believes that even these instructions were in sharp contrast to the traditions of the day that did not even educate women. Separate genderized roles but equally valued worth is no better than "separate but equal" was for racial equality in the United States prior to the Civil Rights legislation.  The author believes that this teaching of separated ministry calling but equal value by God is not biblical.

Keep Silence

In First Corinthians 14:34-35 (NASB) we read, "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."

This entire chapter is focused on the importance of bringing order out of the chaos that was the experience in their public worship at Corinth, the church that was experiencing many abuses. There was confusion due to the disruptive practice of people speaking at the same time. This was particularly a problem with some of those speaking in tongues. Paul's specific guidance there may simply mean that certain women were offenders in this matter. Also, these churches were immersed in a culture that only immoral women would speak in public. To permit a woman to speak in worship might have been too culturally shocking and mar the reputation of the early church. Women were not formally educated in anything and were even intentionally isolated at home to take care of the needs of their husbands and families. Paul did dramatically break with tradition and say that women should be taught spiritual truth. Note Paul addressed this passage to the women's responsibility to voluntarily subject themselves, not to men to make certain that the women did so. They are exhorted to be subject here to the Law, not their husbands. Also though he cites "the Law" in this passage as calling for the submission of women, in Galatians and Romans, he strongly insists that Christ is the end of our obligation to the Law. Also, I Corinthians 11 shows that Paul assumes that women will both pray and prophesy in the Christian community.


Ordination in the New Testament times was a very nebulous thing. The word as a noun does not even appear in the New Testament text, and at least a dozen different words are translated in the infinative ("to ordain"). In its primitive expression, it seems to have been a way for the churches to bless and encourage persons with gifts for ministry. Nothing magical was involved with the ordination process. It is just a way of confirming a person's call to specific ministry by persons other than themselves. The licensing of religions by the Romans my have hastened the formalizing of ordination as we now know it. It's important to remember that Christianity started as a movement and then it became a structure. It began as Christ-followers, who evolved into formalized churches. Clearly, in the New Testament period itself, ordination was not a very clear-cut practice. Today it does serve to some level of regulation of who can and cannot do certain types of ministry within specific churches as well as provide certain legal status and responsibilities to those who are ordained in certain countries. Neither of these two consequences of ordination appears to have any biblically-based authority.

Concluding Thoughts

I am happy to see that certain portions of the Christian Church are in transition on this important subject. Unfortunately, some of the transition appears to me to be rooted in traditions that oppose the ministry of women in the pulpit and opposed to encouraging them to operate out of their God-given leadership gifts within the nuclear family. However, some of the trends are that throughout the world more and more women have been responding to God's call to pastoral and leadership vocations. They are in congregations where the Holy Spirit has called forth their spiritual gifts for leadership and teaching ministry and these women have faithfully responded to God's call. They are preparing for effective leadership in ministry. Today women constitute approximately twenty per cent of the enrollment in the Southern Baptist seminaries - well over two thousand women. In 2000 women were 23% of the student enrollment at Dallas Theological Seminary and 46% in Episcopal seminaries. Presbyterian and Methodists seminaries have long sought out women to train in pastoral ministry. An increasing number of local churches have begun to include women in their elders and deacon groups- and many church staffs now include women who are professionally trained and ordained as ministers of the Gospel or priests. Sadly, many in the more conservative evangelical groups would perceive most of these churches as liberal churches, at times saying that these churches do not believe the bible. The word "liberal" used in this context is not a compliment, but actually a statement of criticism standing in sharp contrast to their understanding of their unilateral and comprehensive "truth" on this and a few other controversial issues. It is this mind-set that precludes a serious examination of what the bible teaches.

An important thing to consider about the role of women in the more conservative Christian churches is that this issue about the role of Christian women is based on a difference in how to interpret scripture. There may well be other agendas such as traditional sexism and cultural chauvinism in some venues, but in conservative biblical circles, the issue is how one is to interpret the New Testament. There is a particular mind-set, which denies ordination for women and always affirms a pattern of female subordination in the family and elsewhere. There are others of us, who take the bible just as seriously as our more conservative friends, who see significant contrast to this position within the New Testament itself. Also, some who theologically affirm women in leadership ministry are actually culturally entrenched against it. These women and men simply have a cultural preference for male leadership. In some cases, they have not had the benefit of women pastors. They just feel more comfortable with a male pastor or priest than with a woman. The challenge for us is to live out of our faith values discerned from God's word NOT be held hostage to our cultural biases, no matter which side of this issue appeals to us personally. This divergence in theology and cultural preferences is not new and should call us to dialogue with one another, not to name-calling.

Notwithstanding the longstanding cannons of the Roman Catholic Church, most Christians, who form their individuated theology from their own understanding of scripture and mostly from the writings of the apostle Paul. Despite the perceptions drawn by many who read isolated portions of his teachings in the New Testament, Paul was a pretty remarkable advocate of women's rights. In his own lifetime he did begin living out some of the implications of his theological ideas. In Ephesians 5, his call for the submission of wives to husbands is clearly based on his calls for mutual submissiveness between husbands and wives and within the church family just a few verses above (vs. 15-21). Paul also takes great pain to tell husbands to love their wives as themselves (vs. 28 and 33). This is clearly reminiscent of Jesus' words about the great commandments. And that is a far cry from the cultural manipulation of women, which characterized much of first-century life both inside and outside the church!

Paul's lists of helpers include many women's names. Popular rabbinic language would have listed them as "the wife of" someone, but Paul calls them by their own names-not their husbands' names. In Philippi, he preached to a group of women (Acts 16) without men being present. Paul lists a businesswoman in that group named Lydia who was a strong leader in the Philippian church. While Jewish rules required at least ten males to start a synagogue, Paul and a handful of women helped start a church! (Interestingly enough, the letter to the Philippians is the most affirming and gracious letter that Paul wrote. Obviously, this church was well begun!) Some of Paul's warmest accolades are for the women who faithfully served in these fledgling churches. The apostle with much gratitude greets Priscilla, Claudia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Mary, Julia, and others. In Romans 16, Paul mentions Phoebe, "our sister, who is a deacon of the church in Cenchrea." The word is "deacon" there, though the Greek term is sometimes translated as "servant" or "minister". The same Greek word is used in the I Timothy 3 passage where the qualifications for deacons are outlined. The verb form of the same word is used in Acts 6, where seven men were set aside for a specific social ministry.

I believe that Jesus chose to start where people were. He was obviously calling into existence a faith-community in which traditional sexism - patriarchies as well as racism and slavery could be overcome. He called us to become one in our marriages. He called us to seek and develop unity in our churches and world. Unity is not sameness, but being of one heart, cooperating together and unifying our diversities to serve God together. Such could not be accomplished by swift, simple, radical confrontation either in the church or the culture. There is the fact that all twelve of Jesus' disciples were male-what about that? Before you read too much into the fact that all twelve of the disciples were male, remember that all twelve were also Jewish and presumably were circumcised. No one believes that Christian discipleship should be exclusively Jewish for all time to come... why make that assumption about the superiority of maleness in Christian ministry and leadership?

I pray that you will seek the word and Spirit of God as you examine this fundamental issue of our Christian practice.

Bibliography and recommended reading:

This article is by no means to be an exhaustive treatment of this important topic. It its goal has been to stimulate your biblical studies, especially if you have followed the popular teaching that women are to be excluded from pastoral leadership within the Christian church or if you think that the bible puts male "authority" in charge of the nuclear family. I strongly recommend you secure copies of the Bristow and Williams books listed below for a much more in depth exegesis of these and other bible passages. These two books as well as Dr. Turner's sermon linked below were a great deal of help in the formation of this article. I offer my thanks to these writers for their refreshing contribution to our theological growth. The Beck book presents great insights from both points of view and dispels the typical simplistic approach by both sides. Both the Knight Book and the more recently published Strauch book are in clear support of the authoritarian model. If you have never studied a view different from the one that you presently hold, these following publications will present you with a plethora of perspectives and theological positions.

What Paul Really Said About Women by John Temple Bristow (Harper San Francisco, 1988) ISBN 0-06-061063-8

Man as Male and Female by Paul K. Jewett (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975)
Apostle Paul And Women in the Church by Don Williams (G/L Regal Books, 1977) ISBN 0-8307-0669-0)- currently out of print (but can be ordered used through Amazon.com)

Two Views on Women in Ministry - edited by James R Beck and Craig L Blomberg. (Zondervan Publishing Hose, 2000) ISBN 0-310-23195-7. Two essays in support of the egalitarian and two essays in support of the complimentarian roles of women in ministry. Both sides are very scholarly and treat the scriptures with very high regard. These two seminary professors from the same seminar do an excellent job in analyzing these contrasting positions.

Men and Women - Equal yet Different by Alexander Strauch (Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1999) ISBN 0-936083-16-6

The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women by George W. Knight III (Baker Book House, 1977) ISBN 0-8010-5383-8.

Internet resources available:
Christian Womanhood in a Changing Church, Sermon by Dr. William L. Turner, South Main Baptist Church, Houston TX
Christians for Biblical Equality

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