Saturday, December 3, 2011

Should Women be Ordained?

I am a priest in the National Catholic Church of North America. I was ordained by a male bishop who holds the belief that women as well as men should be ordained into the church ministry. I was asked for scriptural texts supporting women in ministry or in authority, in a class I am taking to become a certified chaplain. I do not believe that the Bible should be used to ever keep someone from working for the Lord. I believe that if Jesus were asked to provide an explanation as to whether women and men can be ministers and priests of equal status, he would provide such a confirmation. It is not Jesus who would keepwomen from being prophets of his word, but men and women who interpret the Bible for their own purposes.

In looking for a scriptural answer to the question about women's role in the church, we all have a clear-cut decision to make. We can take

1 Corinthians 14:34-35:
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.


1 Timothy 2:11-12:
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be silent.

as definitive statements on the issue and then have to distort, twist, and try to explain many, many other statements and accounts throughout the Old and New Testaments that are at variance with those statements.

Or, we can take the entire scriptural context which supports the full equality of men and women in the church as being the norm and look upon these two passages as intended for some local situations, the details of which are not known to us in modern times. The entire holiness movement, has tended to accept the full equality of the sexes and to view the Corinthians and Timothy references as special, localized situations.

The full equality of male and female in the governance of this world is clearly stated prior to the Fall.
Gen. 1:27-28:(dominion was given to them both)
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Full equality is restated as a basic principle of our relationship "in Christ"
Gal. 3:28:
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the Old Testament, there were several women who were prophetesses, serving as the voice of God in instruction and leading men: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah. The prophet Joel predicted that in the coming age the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon men and women alike, and they would prophesy.
Joel 2:28-29
28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
28 Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared that this was now being fulfilled.
Acts 2:16-18:
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘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.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days,and they will prophesy.

Women prophetesses spoke the Word of the Lord in the early church.
Acts 21:9:
9He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Paul himself speaks of women prophesying and praying publicly in the church services as a normal thing, however their heads were expected to be covered (why? So as not to distract "men" by the beauty of their long hair).
1 Cor. 11:5:
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.

Furthermore, throughout the gospel record, prominence is given to women as the more faithful of Jesus followers. In the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, Priscilla is mentioned ahead of her husband, Aquila, five times out of seven references to this couple, and she took the lead in instructing Apollos, one of the most prominent preachers of the New Testament age. The oldest Greek manuscripts put her first in this passage.
Acts 18:26
26 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.

Paul refers to Phoebe as a "deacon," not a "deaconess"
Rom. 16:1:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

Some ancient manuscripts appear to refer to a woman apostle by the name of Junia, and Paul at different times lists women among those he calls his "fellow-laborers."
Rom. 16:7:
7 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 rule of scriptural interpretation is that passages that are unclear are to be interpreted in the light of clear ones. We are left with the clear examples of Jesus and Paul, the clear statements of Joel, Peter and Paul as our scriptural mandate. Just as the Lord provided opportunities for Old Testament women to lead, and just as the examples of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament provided increasing opportunities for women to lead, so we are called to enact this redemptive action. To live within the teachings of Scripture, we must work counter-culturally to provide women with increasing opportunities to answer the call of God.

What We Should Know about the Character of God

Throughout the Scriptures we see that it is like God to work in ways contrary to traditional human systems of authority. God has never limited revelation to kings, rulers, or government officials. To the contrary, we see God divinely empowering the poor, the prostitute, the virgin, and the widow. Even Jesus came to earth as a poor carpenter. God has always worked counter-culturally to bring about the revolutionary Kingdom of God.
1 Cor. 1:26-31:
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It is in keeping with the character of God that women are called to ministry. We should also recognize that it is essential that anyone serving in the ministry must be chosen by God— not man or woman. Men and women both must testify to such a call and confirm it through their holy outworking of this mission.
Furthermore, we should recognize that women are also called to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing . . . and teaching them" (Matt. 28:19-20). If a woman's call to fulfill the Great Commission is in the form of ministerial leadership, then it is not only her privilege, but her obligation to obey the Holy Spirit.

This is just a tidbit of information to support a woman’s call to ministry in Christ’s Church. There are many more Scripture Passages that I could quote, but this page would be gigantic and I think that the point has been made. God gives us many gifts and we are only limited by our own prejudices and self-doubts. I encourage all women who seek ordained ministry to follow the "call" that God has given them, and not be limited by what others say they can and cannot do.
Peace and love,

Reverend Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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