The critics seem to have over-cooked the notion that all women should always be silent in the Church, and that their function is to vanish somewhere into the shadows of church life, away from their menfolk, who are the real mainstays of Church life.
It is a kind of exclusive segregation, where women are seen as less important than men when it comes to church life. Maybe they don’t mean it this way, but it certainly comes across in their articles and criticism on their threads.
Complements of the chef
They have souped up a strange version of what is called complementarianism.
It has some merits in its basic meaning, which is that…
‘Complementarians assign primary headship roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages. One of the precepts of Complementarianism is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.’ (Wikipedia)
Most Christians, including those in leadership positions, would agree with this perspective, without denying that women as well as men have important roles to play in the life of the Church, including decision making and ministry.
But these headship roles do not make men greater than women in any way, remembering that Christ taught that those in eldership positions of responsibility were to be servants to all, of whom the greater accountability was required.
However, chookwatchers and associated sites put across a far more hardline view of complementarianism, which is, in fact, much closer to chauvinism, and go as far as excluding women almost totally from church responsibility. But does Paul show the same kind of exclusivity?
Women commended in ministry
Here’s an interesting passage of scripture for you to peruse.
Romans 16:1-16 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. Greet Mary, who labored much for us. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.
OK, here’s a question for you: how many of these people named by Paul are women serving in the Church alongside the men? I count Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, Nereus’ sister, and a few female family members.
Clearly, in this passage in his letter to the Romans, Paul has no problem with women in ministry. Some he calls ‘fellow workers in Christ Jesus’, meaning co-workers, and notice how Priscilla is placed first, which not an accident. Some commentators allow for Priscilla, then, to be the more prominent of the two as a result.
Pastors, deacons and apostles
We know that Priscilla and Aquilla were responsible for training Apollos in the Word of God when it became apparent that he had a teaching gift. Paul speaks highly of them both.
1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you.
And again at 2 Timothy 4:19. It is clear that they hosted a house church, so probably in a pastoral role.
In the passage above at Romans 16, Phoebe is commended to the saints to the extent that she is to be assisted in any business she requires of them. She is called a deacon, by the way. ‘I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea’ – ‘servant’ being the Greek diakonos.
Meanwhile, Junia is said by Paul to be ‘of note amongst the apostles’. So not an ordinary apostle, then, but a notable apostle. Notice she and her husband were saved before Paul.
These are not the only women in ministry mentioned in scripture, of course, but if you listened to the legalistic discernment critics you would think that God had a problem with women in the Church, and wanted to shut them down altogether. The critics certainly do.
A slight list
Recently chookwatcher put up a post with a very strong Reformed theology stance that not only condemned all women speakers, but added a list of women he accused of being in error because they are women who speak in public gatherings. No complementarianism there, then. Only exclusivism and segregation of the sexes.
They are amongst a growing list of women to be verbally attacked on chookwatcher sites, mostly for being women in ministry of some kind. Again, this is not the meaning of complementarianism. It does not allow for women to be permitted by men to take part in the decision making processes of church life.
So the chookhead gives a list that condemns, whilst the Apostle Paul gives a list of women in ministry he commends. Very interesting.