The simple facts are: women are serving in leadership roles within the church today and are part of the story in seeing lives transformed and communities changed... Women’s preaching is making a difference and bringing hope, challenge and reconciliation.
I find myself answering this question having just cleared some papers in my office and finding a fourteen page report on women and men in the church. This report was presented to the leadership team of the church I went to, whilst I was exploring a call to Baptist ministry. Its aim, of course, was that the leadership team might be persuaded not to allow a woman to teach, and that I would not be appointed to a leadership role. This is not the first time I have come across this report and I keep it to remind me that there are a great many people in our churches who still hold the view that women should remain silent and not teach or preach.
In 1 Timothy 2:11-15 we read one of the most debated verses of scripture when it comes to women and men in the church and in response to the question; “can women teach in church”, I am inclined to agree with Sara Maitland: “The salient question is, rather, why did the Christian church, from the third to the twentieth century, prefer to remember and quote the Epistle when deciding about the role of women, rather than Jesus’ own explicit command to Mary (Magdalene) – ‘Go and tell’ – and implicit respect for women that marked his whole mission?”(1)
The fact remains it is still a contested verse, which is why it is helpful to look at the social context. Paul was writing at a particular time, which confirmed that the husband should have all legal authority and the wife should be subject to him. To challenge this (at that time) would have been regarded as undermining the very foundations of society and state. Our social context today is very different and that’s why we need to look at the horizon and landscape of our circumstances with regard to women in the church.
The simple facts are: women are serving in leadership roles within the church today and are part of the story in seeing lives transformed and communities changed. Women are teaching with authority and leading people to Christ. Women’s preaching is making a difference and bringing hope, challenge and reconciliation.
When I look at leaders I often ask the ‘what if’ question which I think can be two of the saddest words in the English dictionary, and I know I never want to be known as a ‘what if I had only done this’ person! I want to go out there and make a difference and be a ‘what if I could dream bigger’ person.
Looking back to someone like Mary Magdalene, here is a woman who accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem, and remained at the cross until he died. She was called the Apostle to the Apostles because she told the news of Christ’s resurrection to others. Mary was an amazing woman, trusted by Jesus with good news that would change the world forever and the landscape of Christianity. What if Mary had not responded and not passed on the good news? Perhaps Mary was given the message because Jesus knew she would open her mouth, take seriously her leadership responsibility and speak.
I have seen too many ‘what if’ people in leadership who hold back because they are fearful and lack courage. The month of March provides a great opportunity to celebrate women with International Women’s Day and through the Sophia Network I want to encourage women to teach, preach and lead and go out there and make a difference.
Maitland, S. (1983). A Map of the New Country - Women and Christianity.
Jane Day is a Baptist minister and is currently seconded to The Girls’ Brigade England and Wales. Married to Stephen Day who is a Methodist minister, they will be leaving the UK in December to serve as Mission Partners in Johannesburg.
This is our fourth reflection in our exploration of 'Women & Teaching: what did Paul mean?', our topic for Week III of our Gender in the New Testament series. What do you think? Share your thoughts by commenting on this blog, discussing on Facebook or tweeting @sophianetwork using #genderinNT. Let's join in the discussion together.
(Image courtesy of Paige Larson Photography).