22 February, 2006

Feminism, it's a Good Thing

(I have to chuckle at the thought of a roomful of feminists listening to Martha Stewart praise them.)

Allow me to be honest. My heart is in this subject, but only as a small piece of a vastly more important whole. The freeing of women to minister as the Spirit has gifted each is important to me, but not in itself. This subject not an independent passion, but a necessary fundamental of the kingdom.

If you, as a reader of these thoughts, see the church as a spiritual being centered within a large, steepled building and protected by structure, process, and hierarchy, my arguments will sound spurious to you. Femininity has precious little to add to that edifice.

I see the church as the same spiritual being, but centered around the hearth. Again and again the new testament refers to the church that meets in the homes of saints, even when they had meeting halls. I have nothing against the steepled building. The church, though, needs to love more intimately than it has done in centuries, and the hearth is the best picture I can find for that.

We need to learn something that the Catholics stole from us centuries ago, and that the reformers failed to restore. We need to learn that family transcends agreement. The daughters and sons of our Father need to be fed and loved before we worry about their catechism. Might they need to be corrected? Sure! I am not advocating the end of exhortation, only the rearrangement of our priorities.

Winning back the true role of women in the church will not mysteriously make this happen. It will simply return to us one more of the weapons the Spirit gave to the church. We need every member of the body fully engaged, or we might merely look like a splintered, factious, politicized organization trying to win more people to our point of view.

That said, I believe:
The scripture requires the church to receive and obey the Word of the Lord when the Spirit delivers it through appropriately gifted sisters to the body with authority.

In this post I will attempt to:
  • De-venom the word, "Feminism."
  • Show that women were expected throughout the new testament to do spiritual work .
  • Show that several sisters are listed who actually did such spiritual work.
  • List a few example verses about "everyone" that I believe apply to women.
  • Acknowledge the 4 main passages in conflict, but not address them here. This will be long enough as is.
This is not a very dramatic way to go about it, but I just don't know another way. Maybe something will occur to my right after I hit "publish". :-)

Secular feminism was not born of nothing, fully formed and ready to destroy. The church gave the gift of feminism to the world. The church taught women to read, and taught men to respect their wives. The church taught women that they could go to God without the mediation of a husband or priest. If by feminism you mean women's elevation to the level of men before God, it was Christ Who brought this to earth. The world had to work hard to twist it into despicable thing it is now. God's original gift was true and perfect.

Rome held to the custom of "pater familias". The father of the family held the power of life and death over his children and wife. The place of the weaker sex had been established back in Cain's time, and it continued until Christ. Some few societies gave women an equal place, but they were the exception. Wherever the gospel went, the place of women in society inevitably improved. And the more perfectly the gospel was preached, the better the place of women became.

The secular abuse of equality in these later years is no reason to damn His gift. It should be no surprise that secularism has wrought incalculable damage in our society, along with the good it has borrowed from feminism. Abortion, divorce, and a degree of the current trouble of our youth can be honestly blamed on secularism, and I join those who oppose those evils.

Secular feminism is not biblical feminism.

The lewd, violent, and nihilistic ravings of rock & roll, rap, and country music do not stop us from singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The twisted moralizings of false teachers do not keep us from hearing biblical sermons. Debauched night clubs do not keep us from gathering after dark in churches.

So, when the accusation arises that feminism is invading our churches, let's be sure what that means. If it is the bent feminism that says a woman has the right to kill an unborn child, to leave a family that doesn't fit her lifestyle, and to place her career above her family, then I will bar the gate with you. From this our churches must be protected. (Of course, each of those things is equally wrong for a man, too, but we knew that.)

If it is the brand of feminism the church unleashed on the world, though, then we need to roll out the red carpet.

Let me give some scriptural examples of women preaching and prophecying in scripture. The first one is much more important to me than it is to some, and the last one is a powerful negative example.

John 20:15 & 18 TNIV Chapter
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " ... Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Acts 2:17 TNIV Chapter
" 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Acts 21:9 TNIV Chapter
... stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

1 Corinthians 11:5 TNIV Chapter
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.

Revelation 2:20 TNIV Chapter
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets, 'I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.'

In this passage from the Revelation, note that neither the church nor Jezebel is faulted for the fact that they should not have submitted themselves to a woman. I promise that I am no fan of Jezebel's, but the Lord imposes no burden on Thyatira regarding submission to women. Jezebel is cursed for her deeds, and for her deeds alone.

Now a few passages showing that women actually did the things listed above.

Romans 16:1 TNIV Chapter
[ Personal Greetings ] I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [ Or servant] of the church in Cenchreae.

Romans 16:7 TNIV Chapter
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

(One is not thrown into prison for learning quietly in all submission.)

Romans 16:12 TNIV Chapter
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Acts 18:19 TNIV Chapter
They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

Acts 18:26 TNIV Chapter
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Romans 16:3 TNIV Chapter
Greet Priscilla [ Greek Prisca, a variant of Priscilla] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 16:19 TNIV Chapter
[ Final Greetings ] The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla [ Greek Prisca, a variant of Priscilla] greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

Each of these verses must be understood in its original setting. The Jews would never consider allowing a women to learn the holy scriptures, much less work in the Lord. Gentiles were less than consistent in their respect for women, too. Patriarchalism was the order of the day, and yet these women were clearly of some renown.

Whatever credit you instinctively give these verses, double it. These women held these responsibilities in unfriendly times.

Junia was a Jew, and outstanding among the apostles. How do you earn that appellation? How do you get imprisoned for the gospel? What could a woman possibly do within the confines of learning in quietness that would land her in jail?

When I looked at this collection of verses years ago, I wondered whether there might have been something going on in the first century that we have lost. It was not long before other verses suddenly began to loom larger for me.

1 Corinthians 12:4 TNIV Chapter
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. ... 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 14:26 TNIV Chapter
[ Good Order in Worship ] What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

1 Corinthians 16:16 TNIV Chapter
to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.

Romans 12:6 TNIV Chapter
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your [ Or the] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

The church needs Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Claudia, Apphia, Mary, Phillip's daughters, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Lydia, Dorcas, and the rest. We need them exercising the several gifts the Spirit gave them. Can you really imagine that these women did not bring a prophecy, a teaching, and a spiritual song to their brothers and sisters in the body? Maybe Dorcas did, and maybe she didn't. We'll never know. The sewing she did was beautiful, and had nothing to do with preaching. Priscilla, however, is much more likely to have taught, and Junia can hardly be imagined in any other way.

Whatever I may surmise, and others may dispute, women prophesied in Corinth, and Paul took steps to make sure they knew how to do it rightly.

The churches profited by their women.

We could too.

The current state of the church is that which would be expected of a male-dominated organization. We have set a thousand goals over the last 400 years, and achieved many of them. Along the way, many people have been hurt unnecessarily. Along the way, division has become the legacy of the kingdom of God. Along the way, we have developed rich theology and theory, but failed to demonstrate Christ to the world by our love.

I have been correctly corrected that men should grow in these areas of weakness. Amen. Let men grow. We males need to become more sensitive, take our eyes off of our macho goals, and see people as more than projects. Amen.

But if our sisters of nearly 2000 years ago were able to help the church directly, without first speaking their truth into a husband's ear, then why should we deny ourselves this blessing? What is the point? Where is the value?

Now, I have not addressed:
1 Cor 11
1 Cor 14
1 Tim 2
Eph 5

This is intentional. (Kind of like IBM's manuals, which carefully state on many blank pages, "This page intentionally left blank.")

Every doctrine has its difficult passages. Tulip, the Remonstrance, dispensationalism, and all the other -isms have little verses that trip them up. In turn, every doctrinaire has his or her carefully woven solutions to those difficulties. I am satisfied with my solutions to those passages, and I will gladly share them if anyone expresses an interest in going there. I just won't confuse the message that the church needs gifted women exercising their gifts, and the scripture's testimony to that fact here.

May the church find more of that Love for which our High Priest prayed.


MIlly said...

Thank You!
That is a great post.
Some of the women who have "fought for our rights" have hurt us with the way they've cut us down for being moms and wives. The thing is in the Bible some of the women were the wives of....or the mother of... and proud to be. I have my opinion about women in the clergy I am COC that won't change.

Someone once said to me you're a bigger feminist than me. I thought about it. I am working for an "at a boy company" in management I do think that everyone can do equal work. (I worked just as hard as the guys while in my 9th month.)

I also feel that women have a place in the church. Where ever the gift and God puts them.

Nice job on the post I'm going to send it to my minister. (I speak to him directly:-)

blestwithsons said...

This is one of those posts that I'm left scratching my head going...well if you mean it this way I agree with you - but if you mean it that way, I don't. I'm uber-conservative - you know that. And I have been a member of an extremely conservative church - and still would be if we hadn't moved. This church was firm that women should not be serving in a few certain roles as delineated in Scripture and was also pretty serious about women staying home with their kids. That said - It was also the church where women were valued, discipled and cherished more than any church I've ever seen. It was that church that took wacky little unexperienced me and put me in charge of a youth choir and Christmas musical with a cast of 100! I found gifts I never knew I had!

Saying that women are not to hold Scriptural authority over men is not the same as saying women can't use their gifts. Nuff said.;-)

codepoke said...


I am currently working for a female manager, and lucky to be doing so. She is an excellent manager at every level. There are also women here who would drive me to quit immediately if were on their teams, but I'm not there. Phew.

Yeah. My boss puts in more work, and better than any of her peers.

I'm going to send it to my minister.

I hope he doesn't mind the stuff about steeple churches!

codepoke said...


Thanks for stopping! I can assure you that I mean the one with which you disagree. I don't believe the terms used in the scripture for the things Junia, Priscilla, and others did can exclude teaching with authority.

I certainly believe that when a woman prophesies in a meeting, that she is speaking with authority. We know from 1 Cor 11 that men were present in those meetings. Therefore, these women were taking authority over men.

blestwithsons said...

Yeah well - luvya anyway my brother! *grin*

MIlly said...

I too am from concervative church.
COC's don't have organs and such we don't dance and most don't put their hands in the air. I chose the one I attend because we put our hands up and we have an amen once in a while.

When I attended church with my husband for the first time at a church that he was raised in a woman read from the Bible. I was taken back. We don't do that. The first time in my church a woman spoke before the congergation I was shocked. Now I see that it's fine I can't say I'm ready for women to be elders of ministers but I can take them talking in church. We also don't believe they should teach men.

I'm mixed on how I feel about the world changing. I am sure that women no matter what the gift when with God it is going to be used.

MIlly said...

I chose the one I attend because we put our hands up and we have an amen once in a while.

Not the only reasons I love that church family, that's the reason.

Danny Kaye said...

Sorry it took until this morning to read this.

But after reading it, I must say..."HUH?!?"

Since when does being a messenger of the Lord equal a leadership role in the Church.

The first example, the one that you said was most important to you, was Mary just doing what the Lord told her to do.

Name a Christian who isn't supposed to do that.

The rest of them seem to focus on the women who prophesied. It seems that you are making two hyper-leaps.

One being: Anyone who prophesies must be in a leadership role. That’s just not true. If that were the case, then anyone given the out-dwelling gifts of the HS were automatically thrust into leadership roles in the Church. This is certainly not the case in Act 19 and so on.

And two being: The only time a woman prophesied was in the Church. What about Huldah of 2nd Chron. 34 (definitely OT), and Anna of Luke 2 (Sure, NT but Pre-Church)?

And Jezebel? There is nothing in the scriptures that says she had any kind of leadership role. It simply suggests that she had influence over others to lead them astray.

As far as the theory that only folks who were in leadership got imprisoned goes: What?!

You mean that all those people who were persecuted and burned on posts in Nero’s gardens, and given to the lions in the arenas and all that stuff were the leaders?

That dog won’t hunt!

Most of the rest of the scriptures deal with sisters who worked very hard in the Lord. Again, tell me who, if they will be a disciple of Jesus, is not expected to do this.

I will freely admit that there are two sisters you mentioned that are slightly fuzzy. Depending on the interpretation, Phoebe and Junia are fairly easy to figure out.

I agree with the main premise that women are extremely valuable to the Church. They do have strengths that we men must acknowledge and grow in.
But that simply does not mean they are to be leaders over men in the Church of Christ.

After all, isn’t Jesus the husband and head of the Church? Aren’t we the bride and body of the Church? The very idea of those two roles ever changing is as biblically foreign as any doctrine ever.

codepoke said...

The very idea of those two roles ever changing is as biblically foreign as any doctrine ever.

About 500 years ago, the priesthood of the believer was as foreign as any doctrine ever. In just a couple of generations believers all over Europe were going to God and His Word by themselves, for themselves.

What made the difference? What finally broke the back of the Catholic priesthood?


Information started flowing - Truth started flowing - and the naked manipulations of Rome were exposed. Yes, it was a move of the Spirit, but the Spirit used the press. Rome could not overcome the light, even though they had every school and every theologian in their pockets when it started.

Today, you don't even know how to read the scripture without seeing the priesthood of the believer - your own priesthood.

100 years from now, your great grandchildren will not believe that you could ever have interpreted these verses as saying those women had no authority. Patriarchalism cannot survive its "printing press". The light of seeing women lead, and lead well will bring down the prejudice. Your children are growing up in a world that has measured Margaret Thatcher and found her superior, and is learning to like Angela Merkel.

The scripture requires some women hold positions of authority, but we have missed it for centuries. Missing an obvious truth is not unheard of. The priesthood of believers is my favorite example because it is not offensive, but it is hardly alone.

Is it really so hard to believe that the Lord restores His Truth a little at a time?

Danny Kaye said...

Nothing you have said in that last comment addresses the fact that the scriptures you used to teach a doctrine of "women in leadership over men" really do not teach said doctrine.

100 years from now I am quite certain the scriptures will still say that Christ is the head and husband of the Church, and that the Church is the body and bride of Christ.

Are you suggesting that is going to change?


Danny Kaye said...

Oh, and just for a bit of confusion.

I have no problem with women being in leadership roles in the secular world. Marge and Angela? No problem at all with me.

MIlly said...

Danny Kaye,
I have wondered for a very long time why COC's don't preach about women more (mother's day at times) One of my very favorite sermons was about the bleeding woman. The minister had me in tears and goose bumps. I believe that we have failed to teach for the exception of Mary about women in the church.

Have you ever heard a men's class say let's study women of the Bible? Many were leaders in some way or another. I know that some of my views aren't COC. I also feel blessed to know that the minister we have now might agree with me.

I'm still am not ready to hear women preach although I have been in the room when they spoke where men were. Yes I feel uneasy. Yet God put them at that place. I have also walked out with a friend when women started to teach men.

I'd be rather surprised to find that your church hasn't had a couple teach other couples. The sign of changing times.

I am not ready for women to be the elders or ministers. I think that it's just my upbringing. My mother wouldn't have liked it nor my grandmother.

The thing is that I believe that we have been taught about the men much more than the women. That is what has shaped us. Read about the women see if you don't get that some were leaders.

Danny Kaye said...

You make some good points about us not studying out the women of the Bible very often, Milly. That is something to think about and take action on.

I know of one situation in which God placed a woman over men. That was Deborah over Barak. But that was because there were no men who were godly/manly enough to take charge. So to shame the men, God put Debbie over them. She even admits this is not supposed to be normal:
Judges 4:8-10
Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."
[9] "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, [10] where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.

I don't agree that the times are changing regarding couple's teaching together, though. Aquilla and Priscilla had a ministry which they shared together. I don't believe Priscilla ever tried to place herself in a position where she would be over, say...Apollos.

Paul even argues the case about Peter taking his believing wife along with him. I don't get the impression she was a "rahab, the do-nothing". I'm sure, if she was a believer, she worked very hard with Peter.

I know there are many women of influence in the first century church. But I find none who were given authority to lead the men.

I really am not an archaic man. But I must hold to the scriptures. And until someone convinces me biblically that I am wrong, I must, by faith, hold to what I am convinced is right.
And so far, Codepoke has not convinced me.

Anyway, I gotta get dinner ready and spend some time with ma'boy.

Great comments, everyone!

MIlly said...

Danny Kaye,

Sounds like for the most part we agree. I wasn't saying that the woman was over a man when as a couple, husband and wife, they speak or teach men and women. Your chuch hasn't done that I guess. Mine has. We are a bit different for a COC and I will say some things I like and some I don't. Some of the changes in our world are wonderful and some just scare me. This teaching as a couple is a good thing if done well. His Needs Her Needs, Raising Kids In A Godly Way, and so on. They let you know that the class is taught be a couple, you choose to stay or go. Like I said I've walked out before. I have also walked out of my parents church because the minister preached on something that I didn't agree on. We have to make our choices.

I don't think I want women as ministers in my church home but I won't judge it in my neighbors. (I know your about to yell WHAT!!!!Are ya fer it or not?!!!!)

See being raised by my parents did this to me. Those conservitive hippies.

Danny Kaye said...

I should have made it clearer, Milly. We do have couples who lead classes together. I have no problem at all with that.

The sister is able to be more insightful regarding what the women in the class are thinking and feeling, and why they might do and say some of the things they do and say. (But us guys are learning with every class how to relate to you women-folk...)

My point about it was that it is not a "changing world" thing. But one that has been biblically recorded. This is what I was referring to about Priscilla and Aquilla.

You are right. We agree on much.

codepoke said...

Are you suggesting that is going to change?

The bible will not change. The Truth will not change. We will change. Our great grandchildren will quote the same verses, and they will mean something to them that they should have meant to us all along.

Great comments, everyone!

Absolutely! I have enjoyed this.

And so far, Codepoke has not convinced me.

Even this part. Thanks for stepping up to the plate! I don't know when I will post on the subject again, but it could happen.


Milly said...

Thank you for taking the subject on. Being raised COC women weren't always listened to, those times have changed in my church.

Love the conversation. God is so cool to give us so many great things to talk about. ;-)

Danny Kaye said...

Hey! Wait a minute!!!

Was this an actual debate as described in your "debate rules and regulations" thingy?

But what about the judges?!

What about the winner!?!

I wanna know if I won! NO...

I need to know if I won!!

After all, isn't that what it's all about: being the one on top, being the winner, being the one who was right?




MIlly said...

I saying WE ALL WON!!!!!:-)

Milly said...


codepoke said...

I hate to delete a comment that agrees with me, but there you have it.

Anonymous can post here, but not like that. Feel free to try again.

codepoke said...

I need to know if I won!!

After all, isn't that what it's all about: being the one on top, being the winner, being the one who was right?


Dogged, right here in my own back yard. :-)

Just remember, if it had been a real debate, I would have posted 1300 fewer words, and I would not have been able to defend myself in the comments. Think of all the time it would have saved!

Milly said...

Now...now boys! The chick said you both won!

Danny Kaye said...

Think of all the time it would have saved!

I much prefer this method to something more formal. At least this way I get to hear all of the arguments on all sides.

And I will freely admit: I am a talker. And limiting my verbiage will always give a win to the other sides.

codepoke said...

Milly has ruled, and I accept her authority.