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On Considering the Biblical Basis For Women as Teaching Elders

Report of the Taskforce on Womens Ordination

Submitted to the New Wineskins Convocation V Bay Presbyterian Church November 9-11, 2008

On Considering the Biblical Basis For Women as Teaching Elders Preface Our task: To write a paper expressing the Biblical basis for womens ordination. This motion arose at the third Convocation of the New Wineskins Association of Churches (NWAC) in February 2007 in Orlando. The Task Force: Gerrit Dawson, moderator; Laurel Blanchard; Daniel Brown, Laurie Johnston, James Quillin, and Renee Guth (NWAC staff). The Context: The motion that gave us our task followed a unanimous affirmation by the delegates at the convocation to request that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) create a non-geographic, transitional presbytery for New Wineskins PC(USA) churches desiring to realign with a new denomination. Hence, the underlying concern in the motion was for the future role and well-being of our NWAC women pastors in the EPC where there were currently only two women teaching elders and not all presbyteries were open to having women pastors. Our Shaping of the Task: We understood that the wording of the motion itself contained the desired answer to arise from exploring Scriptural passages concerning the role of women in the church. The moderator expressed that this in itself was problematic on two levels: a) we do not go to Scripture with a disposition of telling the Word what it should say, b) we do not want to approach our gracious new colleagues with a sense of demandingness on an issue not yet settled for them. Further, given the many excellent and scholarly volumes written on the subject, our paper would likely add nothing new to the discussion and, indeed, could only be worthwhile if it were aimed at a desired future. That future is a renewed EPC into which NWAC churches have been welcomed and in which a new, missional paradigm has been expressed in polity and practice. The Ultimate Goal: So, our work is shaped by the question, How can we assist the birth of this new thing by contributing to the way in which NWAC women pastors can be welcomed even as there is no trampling of the consciences or the basic polity rights in the EPC? To put it more succinctly, How can we help ensure that the new thing does not fall apart over the issue of womens ordination?

Working Within the Borders: We note at the outset that the EPC is neither the PC(USA) nor the PCA. This distinction is key to our task. In the other two denominations, womens ordination is of the essence in theology and polity. For the PC(USA), the ordination of women to be ruling and teaching elders is a foundational right. In practice, affirmation of womens ordination is an essential. For the PCA, in practice and theology womens ordination to the offices of deacon, ruling or teaching elder is prohibited and the issue is not open for discussion. We perceive, then, that our task is to be conducted within the borders of the EPC. These spacious pastures provide that the issue of womens ordination, while important, is not an essential of Reformed theology or polity and is thus an area where liberty on both sides can exist. This functions in the EPC, as we understand it, in the following way: The right of the calling of officers may never be taken away from the calling agency for non-scriptural reasons (G. 11-2). Yet, the call to office must be confirmed by the appropriate church court and thus, the court has an inalienable right not to confirm a particular individual for reasons related to Scripture. (G. 11-3). Thus, the subject of women as ruling elders belongs to the right of the congregation to call officers and the right of the session to confirm or not those called to office. Hence, each congregation and session effectively determines together whether or not a church will call women as ruling elders. Because teaching elders (pastors) are members of a presbytery, that court determines the confirmation of a teaching elder called by a congregation. Thus, while any congregation could call a qualified woman as a teaching elder, a presbytery still must confirm or disaffirm that call based on Scriptural grounds. A presbytery could thus have determined that women as teaching elders is either permitted by Scripture or not permitted by Scripture. The ethos of the EPC is such that legislating from above either the absolute right of women to be teaching elders or the absolute prohibition of women as teaching elders would be a violation of its fundamental polity principles. It would also be a breach of the atmosphere of charity and forbearance that has been a hallmark of the EPC. Those who wish to raise the question of womens ordination to teaching elder to an essential level would be better served in the PCUSA or PCA.

Presuppositions: Our taskforce is made of people who revere the Word of God and desire to conform and submit our theology and practice to the teaching of the Bible. Yet, we also come from years of recognizing women as teaching elders. We enter the study presupposing that there are indeed Biblical grounds for the ordination of women. We recognize that presupposition and at that outset consecrated ourselves both to fresh study of Scripture and renewed respect for our new colleagues who do not see Scriptural warrant for women as teaching elders. We have read books and articles on both sides of the issue and see merit in both positions. The following brief pages, then, are meant humbly and respectfully to submit the reasons why we believe womens ordination is Scriptural. We conclude with some beginning suggestions for how we can move forward on this issue in the renewed, missional paradigm of the EPC. As we consider the Biblical texts, we will not try to reproduce the excellent, thorough scholarly work that has been published elsewhere. But we will attempt to deal fairly with important relevant passages. The paper is intended to be a resource developed by the Task Force for use by the New Wineskins Association of Churches. It is informed by an understanding of the Bible as the "only infallible rule of faith and practice." This report presupposes that the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and therefore Scripture presents a coherent witness to doctrine and practice, including polity. We have sought to be faithful to the Reformed Faith, even though this position presents a view of women in ordained ministry at some variance with the practice of the church of the Reformation. For many Presbyterians, especially lay people, it may come as a surprise that the Biblical case for women in ministry is so strong. Some may also be surprised to see that very conservative groups of Christians in the modern era have ordained women from their beginnings.1 This should come as good news to us. We can say that we give women full access to leadership, not because it is fashionable, nor because we have learned better, but because we are compelled by Scripture and the witness of the Holy Spirit that this is God's will for the church. All praise to God who reigns above.

Women as Leaders and Teachers in Scripture We recognize immediately that there are no Scriptural texts specifically calling for women to be set apart as teaching or ruling elders. There is no place, for instance, where Paul instructs something such as Lay hands upon Johanna that the church might recognize her authority to teach. Rather we are faced with texts which, on the face of it, seem to take the opposite position rather starkly. Most well known are For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church (I Cor. 14: 35) and I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet (I Tim. 2: 12). The case gets even stronger when such passages are understood in a complementarian context; that is, when male headship is understood to extend beyond the family to relations between men and women in the church. How, in this light, can we be faithful to Scripture and even attempt to make the case for women as teaching elders? Yet, as we read the whole of Scripture we find that the Word tells us that portions of it indeed came through the tongues of inspired women. We will also see that women received and exercised the gift of prophecy among Gods people in both the Old and New Testaments. We will see that Scripture itself acknowledges the important teaching function exercised by some women. Thus, we highlight Gordon Hugenbergers observation about the disagreement among evangelicals on this issue: What differences there are mainly concern the very narrow issue of the right of women to teach and lead men within the church with what might be characterized as an intermediate level of authority (below that of the women whose inspired words were incorporated into Scripture, but above that of the praying and prophesying women of 1 Corinthians 11).2 Reformed evangelicals may disagree over the place of women in office, but we are united in saying Thus says the Lord when reading the words in Scripture which came from Mary or Huldah or Miriam. We do not hesitate to sing hymns written by women nor do we decline to read articles and commentaries by women who are Biblical scholars. We acknowledge the teaching ministries of women on the mission field and in the church. What is at issue is the intermediate level of authority of exercising public, pastoral teaching and oversight in local congregations. This is what will be in view as we consider the texts.

Part 1: Old Testament Texts The Hebrew Scriptures were the Bible of the church of the New Testament. They formed the early churchs standard of faith and practice. We turn first to the Old Testament for guidance as we seek the coherent witness of Scripture. A text such as I Timothy 2:12 appears at face value to be a complete prohibition of women functioning in a teaching elder capacity. Now we do not want to say that this text, and others like it, do not say what they clearly say by our use of some scholarly sleight of hand. Yet we nevertheless have to understand this prohibition in a fuller context. Exceptions approved by God in the Word lead us to understand passages about the prohibition of women in leadership and teaching in a different way. The issue becomes not a question of moral behavior or even theological principle, but rather one of order. That, we believe, opens up the discussion considerably. There are two kinds of examples from the Old Testament in which women exercised roles comparable to ordained offices. A. Prophetesses The main function of a prophet, in both the Old and New Testaments, is to speak a word from God into the present situation. The utterances of the prophets were to be words God had first spoken to them. One clear illustration of this idea is the role of the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7. David the King desired to build the temple as a home for the ark of God. Upon first hearing of Davids ambition, Nathan encouraged David to enact his vision. But that night, the word of the LORD came to Nathan with an adjusted timetable for the temple. It would be Davids son who would build a house for the name of the LORD. So the next day, In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David (2 Sam. 7: 17). The role of the prophet was to speak on behalf of the LORD. We turn, then, to three examples of women who enacted the prophetic role. 1. Miriam Exodus 15:19-21; Numbers 12 Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. She is identified as a prophetess (Ex. 15: 20 employs the word prophet with a feminine ending). After the miracle of the Exodus, Miriam took up a tambourine and led the women in their dancing

and singing of the LORDs triumph. We read in Psalm 68:25 that such expression could be part of the whole peoples worship in celebrating the victories of the LORD. Numbers 12 recounts the time Miriam and Aaron spoke out against their brother Moses concerning his choice of a Cushite wife. They assert Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also? The LORDs response to this complaint is instructive. The LORD confirmed to Miriam and Aaron that he makes himself known to prophets, usually through a vision or dream. Moses, however, had a preeminent position. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles (Num. 12: 8). The anger of the LORD was kindled against Aaron and Miriam for challenging the special authority of Moses. Miriam was even made leprous for seven days. She was punished for her grumbling against the LORDs chosen leader. But the fact that the LORD had spoken through her previously was not disputed. It was not irregular that she had served as a prophetess. So her song is recorded as part of Gods Word in Exodus 15: 21 as a joyful thanksgiving. 2. Huldah 2 Kings 22:14-20 Many centuries later, in the reign of King Josiah, repairs were undertaken to the Temple. During the renovation, the Book of the Law, perhaps long lost, was discovered by Hilkiah the high priest. Crisis ensued as King Josiah realized the great national neglect of Gods Word. He ordered the high priest to make inquiry of the LORD as to the meaning of the Word and the peoples long disobedience. So Hilkiah the priest took some men and went to make inquiry of the LORD: by consulting a woman named Huldah! She, too, was identified as a prophetess (2 Kin. 22:14). Huldah replied to these men using the preface, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel. She spoke the Word of God on behalf of God. As she uttered the words of God to the nation and to the king, she repeated the assertion three more times that her words were indeed the words of the LORD. So, this section of the Word of God was uttered by a woman. She taught both high priest and king what the LORD wanted to say to them. Huldah spoke to the two most powerful men in the nation with the very words of God. While Gods message through her created a time of national repentance from sin, there is no comment on the fact that the mouthpiece of the LORD was a woman. There is no implication that her office was discontinued after this crucial interpretation. Huldah simply functioned in the office of prophet. She taught priest, king and other men the Word which the LORD had for them concerning the meaning of the moment.

3. Noadiah Nehemiah 6:14 In the days following the return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem, another female prophet, Noadiah, is mentioned. Unlike Miriam and Huldah, however, Noadiah is not a good prophet. She is mentioned among those prophets who opposed Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. The text makes it clear that a number of prophets were opposed to the project, yet the only one mentioned by name is Noadiah. Perhaps we can infer from this that Noadiah played some leadership role in that opposition. The point is that Nehemiah does not condemn her because she is a female inappropriately usurping a male role. Rather, though gifted by God to speak his Word, she sinfully opposed the God who gave her utterance as she opposed the necessary task of rebuilding the walls. Just like with any man, Noahdiahs gifting and office, could be abused. B. Deborah the Judge During the period of the judges, the LORDs people continually fell into idolatry and wicked practices. These were the years when everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judg. 17: 6) and that inevitably led to the reality that the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD (Judg. 2:11; 4:1, etc). Such disobedience led to promised discipline. Then the suffering of Gods people under his judgment enacted through the oppression of foreign powers led the LORDs wayward people to cry out for deliverance. God responded graciously by continually raising up judges for the people, strong leaders who brought victory over enemies. The fourth judge whom the LORD sent to save Israel was a woman named Deborah. She is presented as a charismatic person, a person of great influence, and of great intelligence. The military commander Barak would not act without her presence (Judg. 4: 8). Deborah is also described as a prophet before she was known as a judge, foreshadowing the New Testament elders who also preached and taught (1 Tim. 5:17). We can only appreciate the enormity of the example of Deborah as a female judge when we examine the origin of the judges and their role in ruling God's people. When the Hebrews were enslaved to the Egyptians, the LORD sent Moses to lead the liberation. Moses left his family back in Midian when he returned to Egypt. But after the Exodus, Jethro, Moses father-in-law, joined the Israelites in the wilderness, bringing Moses wife, Zipporah, and their children (Ex. 18:5).

In the desert, Moses was the sole judge in Israel. The people brought their disputes to him and he settled them according to the will of God, in his dual role as prophet and judge. Jethro noticed that this arrangement was not working. He presented a solution: a regularly graduated court system. In that system, there would be panels of judges forming courts; with courts of original jurisdiction, middle appellate courts, and Moses as the final court of appeal. Moses would select the judges, teach them the law of God, and they would apply that law to individual cases. Cases too hard for the lower courts could be remanded to Moses. So seventy elders were selected and then instructed in the Law. Moreover, the LORD promised that he would give these elders some of the Spirit that is on you (Num. 11: 17). They would share in the Holy Spirit who had anointed Moses for leadership. While the rise of the monarchy eclipsed the role of a judge as the final court of appeal, as illustrated by the story of Solomon and the disputed maternity of a baby (1 Kin. 3:16-28), the township judges continued to rule the people, applying the Law to individual cases as they arose and remanding the hard ones to the king. After the exile, the only remaining institutions of Law were the local councils of elders. Their role was the same as before the exile, except that there was no judge or king. The concurrent rise of the synagogue with its ruling council of elders during the Babylonian captivity set the stage for the practices we find in the New Testament. There we find synagogues ruled by councils of elders, acting as a panel of judges applying the law to cases as they arose. In Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin of seventy elders functioned as a "super" council of final appeal. Thus, Deborah served as an elder to Gods people as she enacted her role as judge. There is no indication that her years of service represented an irregularity in a plan to have only male leaders. She is simply presented as the judge whom the LORD raised up when his people had cried out. Deborah also had a part in the creation of Gods written Word. Her song of praise is recorded in Judges 5. The Way Ahead: Joel, the Prophet of the Last Days Joel forms a bridge between the Hebrew Bible and the apostolic church. In this remarkable passage, Joel, speaking for the LORD, promised that in the era to be known as the Last Days, God would pour out his Holy Spirit upon all manner of persons:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit (Joel 2: 28). Conventional categories would be transcended. Gender, social standing, and age would be no barrier to a person receiving the Holy Spirit. The Word of God would come to all kinds of people, even through dreams and visions. Moreover, those same persons would speak a word for God, that is, they would prophesy as a direct result of the Holy Spirit being poured out on them. We will see the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy on the Day of Pentecost. Part 2: New Testament Texts The New Testament provides many more texts for examination on this subject than does the Old Testament. We shall not examine all of them, but only selected texts. These were selected on the basis of pertinence, popularity, and clarity. Witnesses to the Resurrection Women were constantly around Jesus. Some were even acknowledged and mentioned by name, so they must have been known, and perhaps even played prominent roles, in the early church. Of particular interest to us for this paper are the women who were the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel accounts agree that women were the first to see the risen Christ. While the stories have different lists of women, Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all of them. Of particular interest is the charge Jesus gave to the women, as exemplified in Matthew's account, Go and tell my brothers (Matt. 28:10). Jesus instructed the women to become the first heralds of the Good News of the resurrection! In a day when womens testimony held no weight in court, Jesus trusted these women as witnesses to the most important event in history. Surely, if Christ meant that women should be excluded from proclaiming the Good News, would he have not instructed them to tell no one? It is reasonable to suppose that if there existed a universal prohibition against women teaching or preaching to men it would apply to these women proclaiming the Gospel of Christs resurrection to his disciples. Instead, we see in Johns gospel, that Jesus waited until Peter and John were gone before instructing Mary to go tell his disciples of his resurrection (John

20: 10, 17). In the days of the New Covenant, the testimony of women disciples would be foundational to the spread of the Gospel. Pentecost On the day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples in the upper room, and the New Testament church was born. Peter, in his sermon that wondrous morning, connected the witness to Christ in the many tongues of the nations with the book of Joel. In Acts 2:16, we overhear him, "But this is what was uttered by the prophet Joel." That experience of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Galilean disciples to people from all over the world fulfilled Joels promise of the Last Days. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the whole 120 persons in the upper room was understood in the light of Scripture. We think it reasonable that among those persons were a good number of women in the house that day who also received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. This would accord with Joel's emphasis upon the egalitarian quality of the Pentecost. Such an event would prepare the apostolic church to expect and accept women as speakers of God's Word. All One in Christ Jesus Under the Old Covenant, signs of separation between Gods people and the rest of the world were strictly maintained. Hebrew baby boys were circumcised, setting them apart from the unclean Gentiles. This mark of being part of covenant people was also, obviously, given only to males. The law distinguished the LORDs people as well. They alone had received his revealed will concerning what God requires from his people. The fulfillment of the law in Christ meant the end of the sacrificial system. The removal of the dietary restrictions (Acts 10) also meant the end of another distinguishing mark of Gods people. Being made clean in Christ washed away the uncleanness of the Gentiles; the Gospel went forth from one chosen ethnic group to all peoples. For all the freedom the gospel created, this blurring of what had for so long been distinguishing marks created a crisis for many Jewish believers. In fact, the news seemed too good (or too frightening) to be true. Thus we read in Galatians, one of the earliest books of the New Testament, how Paul wrestled against people who were teaching the Galatian believers that Gentiles must be circumcised and become converts to Judaism in order to become Christians. They wanted to retain the old marks of separation as essential to the gospel.

In chapter 3, Paul argues that before the law was given, it was by faith (not circumcision) that Abraham was declared righteous before God. The law demanded of us what we could not do and so became a curse for us. But Christ took the curse of the law upon himself on the cross so that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles (Gal. 3: 14). The covenant with Abraham was not based upon law or race, but upon faith. With the work of Christ, we are freed from law back into faith. Therefore, Gentiles with a faith like Abrahams, who trust in God through Christ Jesus, are to be counted as descendants of Abraham, and so included in the people of God. The old distinguishing marks are transcended. Paul brings this theme to a grand climax in the closing verses of that great chapter by exclaiming that in Christ human categories are transcended: For in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3: 27-8). Previous categories used to discern membership in the family of God have been erased. Race, gender, or social standing do not matter. All who trust in Christ become united to the Son of God and so become sons of God, be they male or female, slave or free. It is instructive that the new sign of belonging to the covenant community has become baptism, a sacrament in which females as well as males could participate. This Galatians passage has a strong echo in I Peter 3: 7, in which husbands are reminded that women are heirs with you of the grace of life. Women participate fully in the salvation of Jesus now and in the glory of Christ yet to come. Does such oneness in Christ mean the end of all distinctions between men and women? The witness of the New Testament points to continuing differences in roles between men and women. This is particularly true within marriage. Such passages as Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 and I Peter 3 instruct husbands and wives within the context of their mutual submission to Christ and one another. We grant that Galatians 3 does not address church leadership and that a direct connection cannot be made between neither male nor female and women

as teaching elders. Still, the trajectory of this oneness in Christ forms a theological foundation for the robust role women played in the early church as witnesses to Christ, as prophets in public worship, and teachers of others. Romans 16: Early Women Leaders In the final chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul sent greetings to friends, both from himself and from those with him at the time. His casual remarks about these friends constitute an open window into the practice of the apostolic church regarding women. Therefore, it is significant that he commends a woman first on his list. 1. Phoebe Phoebe is called a diakonon of the church in Cenchreae. Paul's words imply that she is one of a group of "deacons" in a particular church. Whether this is an ecclesiastical office, we cannot say. That question is probably not as important as it might seem at first glance. What is more important is the use of the word in the New Testament. The word and its cognates, diakonia and diakoneo, have been translated in our English versions as some form of ministry such as "ministry," "minister unto" or "minister" far more times than as "deacon." A quick reading of those passages with the help of a good concordance will show that the English translation depends upon the context in which diakonos appears. To take one example, in Colossians 1: 25, Paul describes his ministry as a diakonos. Reading the context, we see that such ministry included making the word of God fully known. Pauls diakonos included proclaiming Christ, warning listeners of the truth, and teaching everyone with all wisdom. The goal of his ministry was to present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1: 28). In using the same word to describe Phoebe, Paul may be recognizing that his sister (Rom. 16:1) had an important and wide-ranging ministry. At the least, she had enough authority and trust to travel to Rome on behalf of Paul. And, she was a financial leader in maintaining both Paul and the young church in Corinth. 2. Priscilla She and her husband are mentioned both in Romans 16 and Acts 18, making them well known persons in the New Testament. Interestingly, in both cases, the woman Priscilla is listed first. This was contrary to the patriarchal culture of the first century Greek and Roman world. So why was it done? The order seems to imply that Priscilla was an important leader in the New Testament church. We see her teaching gifts as work in Ephesus. A believer named Apollos

had caught fire for Christ and was teaching boldly in the synagogue. Luke tells us that Apollos was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord (Acts 18: 25). What he preached was accurate concerning Christ, but it seems his knowledge of baptism was deficient, containing only the baptism of John (Acts 18: 25). Priscilla and Aquila listened to the young mans teaching. Waiting until the public presentation concluded, the wife and husband team took him aside and taught him "the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18: 26). Apollos was no child nor was he a quiet, retiring sort. Yet he submitted to the knowledge and instruction of Priscilla and Aquila. It is of note that here is a story, told without embarrassment or explanation, of a woman teaching a man theology, instructing him in the content of the apostolic witness. Her gifts were fully employed in the life of this man. This has implications for our later consideration of I Timothy. 3. Junia In Romans 16: 7, another husband and wife team is mentioned, though this time with the husband first: Andronicus and Junia. There is some dispute about the original texts and whether or not Junia was indeed a woman. Still, there is strong tradition for understanding her as the wife of Andronicus. What is most interesting is that these two are listed as outstanding among the apostles (Rom. 16: 7, NIV). This could mean that the apostles commended them, or it could mean that the two were considered themselves to be apostles. Obviously, this would be in a sense beyond the original twelve. What we know for sure is that Paul gave preeminence to them as being in Christ before me. The range of speculation concerning Junia is great. But taking a reasonably conservative view of the texts, we yet discern a woman held in high regard for her ministry. Romans 16 also mentions Mary, who worked hard for you (16: 6) and Tryphaena and Tryphosa, two women who were workers in the Lord. And we must add from Acts 18, Lydia, who was a merchant who came to Christ and eventually hosted a church in her home. We cannot tell exactly what leadership or teaching positions these faithful women had, but their place as workers for Christ alongside faithful men is secure. Women and Prophecy in Corinth D. 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, and 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35 In 1 Corinthians, we read of two issues affecting the worship of the young church which are relevant to our subject. The first was a dispute concerning head coverings in the Corinthian church. The issue seems to be that some women were

prophesying and praying in the worship of God without covering their head. Others were doing the same and wearing a shawl or scarf on their head. Paul deals with the issue by commanding that in all the congregations women ought to prophesy and pray with their heads covered! What concerns, and amazes, us here is not the head coverings as much as the assumption that women will indeed be regularly prophesying and praying in worship. Nowhere is this passage does Paul even hint that such actions as prophesying and praying are inappropriate actions for women as women. Further on, Paul will describe what he is calling to prophesy as speaking to the gathered church while others listen and weigh the meaning (I Cor. 14: 29). He simply accepts as a normal practice in all of the Christian churches that women, with their heads covered, will address the church. This is the most important text that we have for recognizing the validity of the call of women to be ministers of word and sacrament. The second Corinthian issue concerned orderliness in worship. Paul addressed the chaos in worship created by people talking at will without regard to any order. First, he deals with the cacophony of multiple people speaking in tongues at the same time. He observes that if a visitor dropped in, it would appear as bedlam to that person. His solution: speak one at a time and let everyone else listen, no more than 3 persons speak in tongues at any one service, and let one person interpret the messages for the edification of everyone (I Cor. 14: 26-33). This context is extremely important to understanding Paul's remarks to the women in worship in which he says, the women should keep silent in the churches (I Cor. 14: 34). The essence of this instruction seems to be "Don't talk in church." By this he does not mean that no woman should say anything in worship. That would contradict what Paul said in the 11th chapter about the custom of all the Christian churches. Rather, he is saying that only one person should speak at a time and everyone else, including the women, should be quiet and listen. We recall that early Christian services were modeled after the synagogues, where women sat together, either in a gallery, or behind the men. The women in Corinth seem to have been taking advantage of this togetherness to chat during worship. Paul even hints at this by advising them that if they have questions about what is being said, they should not ask one another during worship, but wait until they get home to ask questions. So, Paul is not giving a flat prohibition against women saying anything in church, but against women talking aloud and disrupting the worship with questions or comments.

1 Timothy: Not Exercising Authority Over Men Perhaps the most difficult passage for those advocating the call of women to be teaching elders is 1Timothy 2: 8-11. Paul speaks plainly: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. The heart of the issue is the exercising of authority over a man. The root word is authenteo. It is found only here in the New Testament, and seems to have a sense of usurpation of a rightful place. Pauls concern is with women taking over a place reserved for men in their teaching or ruling over these men. He even links the command to a creation ordinance concerning the primacy of Adam in creation and the primacy of Eve in being deceived into eating the forbidden fruit. If this chapter stood alone, and were taken at face value, there would be no issue to discuss. The prohibition seems both extensive and quite clear. But as we have seen, the witness of the rest of Scripture gives instances of women exercising authority over men in leadership, speaking the Word of God to men, teaching men, proclaiming the gospel to men, and leading in prayer in worship. These many occurrences are not qualified as exceptions. The words and teaching of the women are not abrogated by the fact that it came from women. If the 1 Timothy text teaches a uniform prohibition on women leading or teaching men, then it seems to stand in contradiction with the rest of Gods Word, and we know that cannot be possible. It is for this reason that we seek a cultural context for 1 Timothy to help us understand how to hold all of the Word of God together coherently. Though such cultural interpretations remain contested in the literature, we offer the following as an example of what might help us understand the problem 1 Timothy addressed. We know that Timothy was at Ephesus when Paul wrote to him. This city contained one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the great temple to the goddess Artemis. Though the Greeks had a goddess named Artemis (known to the Romans as Diana), it is likely that Artemis of Ephesus was more like an Asian goddess of fertility. A statue of the many breasted Artemis dwelled in the center of the shrine and was said to have dropped from heaven (it may have been a meteorite). The temple attracted many pilgrims and we learn from Acts 19 that silver replicas of the goddess were big business. Such a temple was served by eunuchs who may well have been under the authority of female priests of this goddess.


If such female priests numbered among the many Ephesian converts to Christianity, they would indeed have had to undergo a significant cultural change. It might have been natural for such women converts to assume that they were to become the leaders in the Christian church also, and that the men were to be subservient to them. Both women and men who had lived as pagans would have had to be taught the content and contours of the Christian faith. Some would have been making the difficult transition from religious leadership to the humble place of being neophytes. As Paul instructed Timothy to hold fast to the good confession of Christ, he knew that Timothy in Ephesus was combating the lingering effects in the thought and practice of the new Ephesian Christians. The women coming to Christ from leadership in the Artemis cult would have needed to give up their exalted places as they learned the doctrine of the God of all gods. They would be required to submit to learning true doctrine before they could be teachers. Moreover, if there had been trouble with personalities or aberrant theologies from such a pagan heritage, as the letter to Timothy seems to imply, then Pauls command for women not to teach or exercise authority over men would make great sense. The prohibition would perhaps have been temporary, until these women were able to pray and prophecy as the Corinthians did or to teach as Priscilla did. Such an interpretation of the letter to Timothy may or may not hold under close scrutiny as the years pass. It is offered succinctly as a way to consider one interpretation that helps us hold a difficult passage in harmony with other teaching of Scripture. Summary The Hebrew Scriptures were the Bible of the apostolic church. In them, the church read of women exercising roles of both prophet and judge. They read the songs of praise spoken through the lips of women and recorded as sacred text. They read the prophecy of Joel that the LORD would pour out his Spirit upon his people without regard to categories of age, gender or social standing. After Pentecost, they believed the days Joel foresaw had come to pass. The early church understood itself as the continuation of the people of the covenant. It was the new Israel comprised of all those who are in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. It was the church of the eschatological age. The promises made through the prophets belonged to the church. Among those prophetic promises was the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Male and female members of that church would hear and speak God's

Word to that community. The apostolic church understood that promise and acted upon it. The New Testament record is witness of that fact. Conclusion For these reasons, we believe the church may confidently set apart women as teaching and ruling elders. Of course, we recognize that ours is not the only way to read the Biblical texts. We do not believe that any theology of ordination, either of men or women, is of the essence of the Christian faith. We do not want the church sundered over that which is not essential, nor do we want the consciences of any to be trampled. Yet we love, honor and respect the teaching and ruling ministries of the women elders among us. We believe they are being called to continue these offices even as we former members of the PC(USA) enter the EPC. We believe God will raise up more women as teaching and ruling elders in the years ahead. So we seek a future that will allow us to grant one another differing views while yet working together as one denomination passionate about its mission. We believe there may be a constructive way forward. A commission oversaw the creation of the New Wineskins transitional presbytery approved by the 2007 General Assembly. That same commission has now put forward for consideration the idea that the non-geographic New Wineskins presbytery be made permanent. Thus, the ninth presbytery of the EPC would be a nongeographical presbytery committed to living out the missional polity of the New Wineskins Constitution under the authority of the Book of Order. Within this presbytery, women could be ordained as teaching elders, though no church would have requirements or quotas placed upon it in this area. Other EPC churches could transfer from geographic presbyteries to the New Wineskins presbytery, just as churches in the New Wineskins presbytery could apply to transfer to geographic presbyteries. The creation of this permanent, nongeographic presbytery would enable the EPC to keep its foundational polity commitments while providing room for the New Wineskins churches to enter fully into the life and work of the EPC without a loss of recognition or honor for our women teaching elders. There may yet be other, better solutions, but this is one way to consider now. We close by professing our intent to continue to be formed by Scripture as our "only infallible rule of faith and practice." Our hope is that this paper will in some way contribute to that formation. To God alone be all the glory.

Bibliography Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Women in the Life of the Church: A Position Paper. June 2005. Bilezikian, Gilbert. Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Womans Place in Church and Family. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 3rd edition, 2006. Black, Stephanie. Women in Church Leadershio: A Biblical Survey. Unpublished paper. Central South Presbytery, Report on the Ordination of Women to the Office of Teaching Elder. October 22, 1993. Majority and Minority Reports. Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Position Paper on the Ordination of Women. June 1984. www.epc.org/ppordin.htm. Hugenberger, Gordon. Some Notes on the Gender Question. Park Street Church website: www.parkstreet.org. Mirabella, Thomas. Titus 2: 1-8: The Forgotten Pericope of Gender Issues. Unpublished paper. Nicole, Roger. Biblical Authority and Feminist Aspirations. In Alvera, Michelsen, ed. Women, Authority and the Bible. Downers Grove: IVP, 1986. Piper, John and Grudem, Wayne, eds. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991). Stevenson, A. Russell. Women in Leadership. Unpublished paper, July 2001.


One of the barriers to the modern acceptance of women in ministry in evangelical church groups is the influence of feminism in the church. A myth has arisen that all women in ministry today owe their ordination to the feminist movement, and without it there would be no place for them in the church's ordained ministry. As one can see from this study, women have a Biblical expectation of openness to ministry. Also, the mainline churches in the modern era have come very late to the realization that women should not be excluded from ministry, having been predated by churches of marginalized people which have now outgrown those same mainline denominations. Church history shows us that as the church became more acceptable to the upper classes of people, it took on more characteristics of the dominant culture. The witness of the church of the second century has references to women in ministry. Ignatius, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, asked them to to salute May who was distinguished for her erudition, and also the church which is in her house. In his letter to the Antiochians, Chapter VII, p. 218 admonished them to keep in remembrance Euodias, your deservedly beloved pastor. Some have identified Euodias with the Eudoia in Philippians 4. In Chapter XII, p. 220, he wrote that he saluted the deaconesses. Soon, secular social mores began to prevail, even over the practices of the primitive church However, in marginal groups of Christians where the dominant class mores were not very strong, the primitive practice of including women in leadership in the church has continued. Two examples illustrate this point. One example is the Waldensians in the 12th. and 13th. Centuries. In fact, the Waldensians were excommunicated, not for heresy, but for preaching without the permission of the local bishops who refused to give them this permission. The "Wikipedia" specifically mentions women as among those who traveled about preaching. A more modern example comes from the 20th. Century. In the years around the turn of the century, America witnessed the rise of the modern Pentecostal and Holiness movements that eventuated into such denominations as the church of God in Christ, the Assemblies of God, the Nazarene church, the church of God and the Pentecostal Holiness church. The first two are now the largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States. From their beginnings, they have ordained women to the teaching and ruling ministry. These developments have been unknown to us, perhaps because most of this activity was within the Wesleyan tradition, and not in the Reformed tradition. They are referenced here as an example of women in ministry in very conservative groups who looked in a radical way to Scripture for their norms, and not to the dominant culture.
2 Gordon Hugenberger, Women in Leadership: Notes on the Gender Question and Related Biblical Texts, www.parkstreetchurch.org. Last visited 10/22/08.