The World According to Tiff Sniff

Meandering ponderings and wonderings on the state of things.


Women in the church

Check this article out.

After my "glass ceiling" post the other day, I have been following links through several other blogs on this issue. Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that this is an issue I am passionate about and committed to, but that I also think it is one that has to be resolved by the males who are "in control" right now. For women to make a big stink, I think, will only cause more division and strife.

That being said, I am not going to be silent on the issue, and will talk with anyone who wants to discuss it with an open mind.

My mother, the daugher of a very conservative COC preacher, was quite subversive, at least when it came to raising her own daughers. She used to wonder aloud why a woman can pass communion side to side but not front to back. She also wanted me to sign up for my Christian high school's homiletics (preaching) class. (Unfortunately, I was too concerned about my status to do that!) And so, in spite of everything the men in my life were teaching, I grew up believing that I had as much worth and talent as any of them, and that my gender should not exclude me from a role in God's family. Here is my position (note the frequent "I think"s - this is opinion!)

I think the New Testament is unclear on the role women are to play. I think Paul himself gave conflicting messages. The commands concerning women say one thing; the stories about what women were actually doing in the early days of the church say another. In addition, if you look at the role of women throughout the Bible, you find women like Deborah, who was the spiritual leader of the entire nation of Israel, or Esther, whose faith and leadership saved the day. Clearly God doesn't think there is something inherent in females that makes them incapable of such positions.

Change is coming, whether we want to admit it or not. Either the churches of Christ will get on board with the rest of the developed world, and offer both sexes equal position within the church, or we will see a pretty serious split between the two camps. I think the changes need to be embraced, but not without prayer and contemplation. I think changes need to be implemented slowly, in steps, and not all at once. I think plans and procedures need to be in place for accepting and working through the conflict that will arise as this issue is addressed. (Pepperdine's Straus Institute has wonderful men whose life work is to resolve and prevent conflict in the churches.)

I know this is a sticky issue, and that people have really strong opinions and emotions on both sides of the argument. I also think that it is NOT cut and dried, no matter what critics on either side would say. But I think, given the unclear stance given us in Scripture, along with our equal status in America in all other areas (at least nominally), that the church cannot hold back any longer. The church has always been reluctant to accept changes - abolition, that the earth is round, evolution (whoops - another bucket of worms!). I'd love to see this not turn into another black mark on the church's history.

Other links I've found interesting:
Bad story of a young woman's experience in church
Good outcome for a similar story
Christian group dedicated to gender equality

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Here's another great resource (thanks, Phil!)

One more thought (this from Rubel Shelley, not me: back when the church started, and the believers were meeting in homes, and the Lord's Supper was a full meal, does anyone actually believe that the men went and got the food and served everyone, while the women sat patiently by?)

5 Responses to “Women in the church”

  1. # Blogger Phil

    Here's another great resource from the Manhattan Church of Christ. It's called A Community Without Barriers.

    Very informative.  

  2. # Blogger Malibu Librarian

    Tiffany,

    Thanks for this post. As much as I'd love to wax ad nauseum about why and how I think expanding worship roles to women is not only ok, it is required by a responsible exegesis of Pauline commandments (basically, he commanded churches to keep women silent because culture kept them silent; no one would want to join a fledgling religious community that had such a counter-cultural approach; now the shoe is on the other foot and all-male-led churches are the places that seem odd and get in the way of true evangelism). But I think our approach leads to laughable circumstances.

    Do you ever remember attending a semester-long overseas program where females outnumbered males something like 24-5? And how the same 2-3 males kept doing ALL the religious/devotional planning in a pretty lackluster fashion, over and over, over and over, for an entire semester...simply because of which organs we were born with? It seems ridiculous now. There was more spiritual maturity and wisdom in one of the females (aka, you) than in the rest of us guys put together.  

  3. # Blogger Tiffany

    That rings a bell. Well, except for that last sentence, that is.

    Every week it seems, up on the Timbo-tron, there is an announcement asking for more men to serve communion. One of these days, I'll get a couple of other women and go back there, just to see what they will do. (I'm not quite brave enough to do it alone.) I'm really not sure whether the man in charge would go for it or not. But it'll happen one day!  

  4. # Blogger Phil

    Tiff,

    Please do that. Please. I'd even change that slide to read, 8 "people" are needed...

    That'd shake things up nicely.  

  5. # Blogger john alan turner

    I've always wondered about that. In churches that claim to be more gender-inclusive, they continue to make announcements about needing men to pass communion and men to be ushers and men to do other stuff that women should be able to do. If you ever do muster up your gumption and go knocking on that door, I'd love to hear about it.  

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