Search

A little while ago, we started a series of posts examining the role of women in the life of the church.  The posts don’t pretend to say all or even half of what needs to be said on this topic.  Instead, the posts represent a wrestling for the joyful, wide, fruitful freedom of women within the complementarian framework the Bible teaches.  I’m a complementarian, but it seems to me that sometimes the way we talk about gender roles and the practice of complementarity puts the accent on what women can not do rather than what they can and should do.  I think this hurts our sisters, our brothers, and our churches.  We’re “benching”–intentionally or unintentionally–a sizable part of God’s family intended to play important God-ordained roles in the Great Commission.

In our first post, we outlined the angst that at least some complementarians feel, especially many of our sisters.  In our second post, we talked about the necessity of women being taught and teaching.  Our third post explored the role of women as missionaries.

Women and Prayer

I’m a complementarian, but women should pray to God in public.  Restrictions in public prayer provides an example, I think, of the protective fences of complementarity being pushed over into our neighbor’s yard.  In an effort to rightly protect areas God sovereignly reserves for qualified male leadership, some have began to annex and “protect” anything that looks like “leadership.”  In their practice, some have basically reduced the complementarian vision to “never allow a woman to do anything ‘up front’ in the public meeting,” including prayer.  In the process, they’ve also reduced “leadership” to up front marquee performance, rather than humble, loving, sacrificial service to all.

But it seems clear to me that women prayed in the public gatherings of the early church.  As the disciples waited for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost, they “were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).  Presumably as the Lord added thousands of women to the ranks of the disciples (Acts 2:41), these women were among those devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42).  During times requiring fervent intercession, the disciples gathered and prayed together with women–even in the home of a woman (Acts 12:12).  The book of Acts generally depicts the female disciples devoting themselves to prayer along with the rest of the church.

Acts 18 records the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Corinth, the church to whom Paul addressed two New Testament letters.  In his first letter to that early church, Paul mentions the fact that women prayed in the gathered assembly.  He writes:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.  But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.  Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.  … Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?” … If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor. 11:2-5, 13, 16).

Note several things about this passage.  First, Paul commends the Corinthians for maintaining the traditions he delivered to them (v. 2).  At least at this point, Paul does not consider the Corinthian church to be out of step with apostolic teaching, but in fact imitating him (v. 1).

Second, Paul specifically addresses the pattern of headship taught in the Scriptures.  He wants them to understand that God is the head  of Christ, Christ is the head of every man, and man is the head of his wife (v. 3).

Third, the pattern of headship gets reflected in the cultural practice of wearing head coverings.  A wife’s covering honors her head, her husband (vv. 5-7).

Fourth, specific to our point, Paul mentions that women pray in the assembly.  Were this a threat to the complementarian relationships of home and church, or were this contrary to the apostolic practice Paul commends the Corinthians for, we might expect Paul to dispense with the cultural preferences for head covering and hair length in order to go to the more fundamental issue of women praying in public.  But instead Paul tells the Corinthians they may judge for themselves whether to require head coverings since neither the apostles or the apostolic church have such a requirement (vv. 13, 16).  Paul doesn’t so much as clear his throat at the news of women praying the public assembly.

We might summarize the passage this way: When it comes to women praying in the public service, Paul (a) affirms headship in church and home, (b) protects liberty in head coverings, and (c) passes no judgment on women praying.  I suspect he passes no judgment on women praying in the assembly because it was accepted practice.  Women were free to do so then, and they should be encouraged to do so now.

Personally, I don’t think the instructions of 1 Cor. 14:31-15 prohibit female prayer in the church.  In 1 Cor. 14:31-35, Paul again takes up the issue of wives honoring their husbands in the public assembly.  They’re not to speak out of turn when it comes to questioning the prophecies.  Some argue this passage effectively eliminates any public service by women in the church.  I’d be inclined to agree with Jim Hamilton’s view on this passage:

[W]e should pause here to consider the fact that this passage indicates that it is acceptable for women to pray and prophesy in church. On the other hand, 1 Cor 14:34 says, “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak …” The best conclusion is not that Paul is contradicting himself. The difference between these two contexts is that in 14:29 Paul had said, “let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” Then when he says in 14:34 that women are not to speak but to keep silent, I take it that he is referring to the evaluation of the prophecies.

You can find Jim’s full sermon here: https://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-9-No-2/Gender-Roles-and-the-Glory-of-God. I think his solution harmonizes the passages rather well.  The Bible does not seem to anticipate public prayer offered by women as a threat to the basic structure of relationships in the church and home.

What Really Threatens Complementarity?

One thing we ought to ask ourselves in our discussion and practice of complementarity is: “What truly threatens a healthy complementarian vision of church and family?”  Many people act as if any public activity by women represents a significant threat to gender roles and qualified male headship in the church.  So, everything that involves standing before men gets branded “out of order” or “unsubmissive.”

I’m reminded of the trajectory I’ve seen my mother’s church take on this issue.  When I was a boy, the church maintained a pretty strong stance on male leadership (in this case, all the deacons were male; there were no elders).  In addition, the church would not permit a woman to speak from the pulpit.  Even the announcements–read by the church’s female secretary–were read from a small podium on one side of the church.

On the other hand, the church also had a number of extra-biblical offices that women filled.  There were the “mothers of the church,” older women sometimes dressed in white who were honored like… well, mothers.  I’m not really sure what clout they had.  But I did recognize early on that you didn’t mess with the mothers of the church!  The committees of the church were generally headed by women.  So, whatever shots were called in that part of the church’s life were called either by those women or by the pastor with strong consultation from the women.  In short, there existed these facsimiles of leadership in the church, carved out intentionally or  unintentionally for women.

A generation later, the church now has a female “minister” who preaches from time to time.  Announcements are read from that same podium off to the side, but the task of regularly preaching God’s word now includes women.  The mothers of the church are still there, and the committees are still chaired mostly by women.

What happened?  Was it the slippery slope?  Did the church finally slide uncontrollably down the egalitarian cliff once women were allowed to read announcements?  Probably not.

There always seemed to be a kind of unrest in the church when it came to women’s roles.  There were women like my mother, who sometimes growled, “Women should not be preachers.”  I’ve heard my mother say on more than one occasion, “I don’t care for no woman preacher.”  Then there were other women in the church, who equated the entire discussion with civil rights.  They felt women were being unnecessarily restricted and oppressed.  They didn’t accept a biblical notion of gender roles, at least not as those roles were currently practiced.  And in fairness to them, it’s highly doubtful that the Bible’s teaching was ever carefully explained.

Here’s my hypothesis: When the Bible’s teaching isn’t carefully explained–fencing in appropriate spheres of leadership and teaching, while fully encouraging women to be on mission and involved in meaningful ways in the church–all that’s left for understanding and acting on gender roles is a secular framework like civil rights or women’s liberation.  Here’s the kick in the head: If the practice of the church is not biblical and unhelpfully restricts women, then such a framework is not only attractive to some people, it’s right.  It’s right to resist oppression wherever we find it and however benevolent in its intent.

The greatest threat to a complementarian vision of the home and the church is an uninformed and restrictive practice of “complementarity” among those who champion it.  In the end, the overwhelming majority of conservative evangelical women I know support the Bible’s teaching on gender roles.  They long for strong male leadership.  They don’t have ungodly ambitions for usurping authority.  But they also long to enjoy every freedom Christ gives, and to serve the Savior as fully as possible in every green field of opportunity.  If we place the fences of complementarity out to far from what the Bible truly restricts, do we not run the risk of fencing out our sisters altogether?  Does the church not run the risk of becoming a bastion of male dominance?  And would we not become our own worst enemies, fueling by our malpractice a legitimate protest for inclusion?  And might we be vulnerable to mistaking those female voices for inclusion as voices of egalitarian and feminist unrest?

May our sisters pray for us–publicly!


View Comments

Comments:


44 thoughts on “I’m a Complementarian, But… Women Should Pray in Public”

  1. Andrea Cavanaugh says:

    Hello, Thabite! I hope you’re well!

    I have one question about women praying in public that I would like your opinion on — is there a restriction on the “kind” of prayer a woman may pray in the public service?

    Like you, I also grew up in a church where women rarely did anything on the main platform of the church apart from singing the special music. :-) The churches I have been part of in the last five years have had women read Scripture in the public service and have had women pray in the evening service/congregational prayer time, for which I’ve been very grateful and supportive of. But neither of these two churches has women pray in the morning service where there are typically prayers of confession and/or prayers of praise.

    The defense of this restriction has been that those prayers are, at least in part, “teaching” prayers and are therefore best left to men. I’m not particularly sure that I agree with this argument. I see those prayers as leading the church in praising God and/or confessing sin and only secondarily as possibly “teaching” (and even then, under the authority of the elders and simply affirming truth that a woman praying in an evening service just as readily affirms, so I’m not sure why women can’t pray these prayers).

    I also don’t see how leading the church in praising God on Sunday morning is distinctly different from leading the church in praising God or making requests of him on Sunday night, albeit with a more specific matter as the topic of prayer on Sunday night.

    All that to say, I very much enjoyed your post, but did find it a bit vague when it comes to the types of prayers women may pray in the public service, particularly since this distinction between the types of prayers women may pray in public affects when women may or may not pray in the churches in our circles.

    Thanks!

    Andrea

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Andrea!
      Good to hear from you! It was a treat to see Jeff at Southern last week. He’s looking very married, which is to say he looks like he’s enjoying some good home cooking! :-) Thanks for taking such good care of my brother.

      Thanks also for raising this question. I must have suffered a senior moment because I had a couple sentences in mind about this but apparently never actually wrote them!

      I know what’s intended by the statement “some prayers are more ‘teaching’ prayers,” but I think it’s a poor rationale for not allowing women to pray. I can appreciate that some prayers–like a sustained prayer of praise–involves more explicitly theological statements. On some level, to pray a prayer of praise well requires good theology. You don’t want folks praying false things about the character of God as you’re trying to extol Him for His character and work.

      But that’s an argument for having theologically-solid people pray, not for restricting who prays publicly. I’m supportive of sisters who know how to pray publicly praying when the church gathers, along with elders and men who know how to pray well publicly. It appears to me that women were praying in the gathered assembly in 1 Corinthians, as well as in the smaller assemblies like that in Acts 12.

      It seems that consistency requires that if women pray in the evening service, they should pray in the morning service. The only prayer I wouldn’t have women pray would be “the pastoral prayer.” Prayers of confession, praise, intercession, thanksgiving and supplication are all fair fields for women as far as I can tell from scripture. And all of that might be found in a “pastoral prayer.” But I wouldn’t label it that because I’d want to be clear about the Bible’s identification of pastoral ministry with qualified men.

      Does that help? Thanks for dropping the note, and give my regards to Jeff.

      T-

      1. Kaitlyn Belloli says:

        Hi Thabiti,

        Thank you for your posts! I really appreciate that you’ve decided to take this topic on…would you consider writing a book on it? Seriously! :) I’m very grateful that God has given you such a great gift of listening. Only a pastor who has spent a lot of time listening to the women in his church could capture these sentiments so well.
        I was mainly posting to ask if you could put your response to Andrea in the main post by chance? I’m not sure if that’s possible, but it really helped me understand practically what you were saying and I don’t know how many people will see it in the comments. Just a suggestion.

        Thanks again for highlighting what you see scripture positively commending women to be doing!

        Kaitlyn

  2. Marie says:

    Thanks for this. Im not very ‘scholarly’ but in a basic statement, women can pray from the pulpit before the congregation on any given Sunday morning service. Is that correct. I love reading your ‘blogs’ and I really enjoyed these sessions you’ve had but I will admit my brian got a work-out as such!!! Which is great!!! Just want to make sure I got the right outcome from your studies.
    Thank you for your blogs too. Im from NZ and my husband and I love hearing what you have to say – please come here sometime and preach!!!! We would love to hear you!!!!

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Marie!
      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and to leave such encouraging notes. I really appreciate the gift of grace!

      Yes, I think you get the point. I’d argue that women can pray publicly during a Sunday morning service. At least I don’t yet see a compelling biblical reason why they should not.

      Praying the Lord sends fresh power and revival to the saints in NZ!

      T-

  3. Marie says:

    Thanks. Also one other thing. Do you have any links or good resources which deal with the head covering issue. My brother and I have been having some good discussions regarding this. We grew up in a brethern church and so they still wear head coverings. I stopped ourely just coz they were ugly!!! hahaha…Not a very sound biblical reason I know!!! But recently Ive been looking over it again (to see why I believe what I believe sort of thing) and for some strange reason I feel convinced about wearing one now??? But Im not!!! I know….Im confused!!! The fashion conscious part of me wont allow me to wear it but the biblically annoying brother keeps throwing bits of material at me and telling me it suits my eyes!!! (you can see how this isnt causing division but is genuinely providing us with some good biblical discussion around the topic!!!)
    Any help/links/books I canbe looking too. I ahve been reading some material from a messianic jews perspective and it sounds very ‘correct’ but Im open to hear from all corners.
    Thanks again

    1. henrybish says:

      Marie,

      I have not made up my mind on the head-covering issue yet but here are some good links that I know of:

      http://www.bible-researcher.com/headcovering.html

      see especially the link to Michael Marlow’s exposition for a defence of the practice for today. For a contrary view see the link to Wayne Grudem’s view.

      Another interesting piece in defence of them is John Murray’s take on head coverings:

      http://www.the-highway.com/headcovering_Murray.html

      For two other significant pieces that argue against head coverings see:

      Dan Wallace:
      http://bible.org/article/what-head-covering-1-cor-112-16-and-does-it-apply-us-today

      Thomas Schreiner’s chapter in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood called ‘Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity’ also presents an argument against head coverings. It can be read for free online here:
      https://www.cbmw.org/Recovering-Biblical-Manhood-and-Womanhood/

      What kind of Brethren do you come from? I am attending a church that has Brethren roots (I am not from Brethren myself) and there is a mix of views on head coverings, some of the younger ladies wear them but most do not. From an aesthetic perspective I personally think it looks quite elegant.

    2. manimal says:

      Thanks for bringing up such an important issue. I am a complementarian, but I see a lot of “traditions of men” in churches that promote male leadership. For example, a common belief and practice is that it’s not OK for a woman to preach from the pulpit, but it’s alright for them to teach a mixed adult Sunday School class (with both men and women). I don’t see an essential difference between the two except for the size of the groups. I think that points out that we need to do a better job of studying what Scripture has to say about it. We should not do things just because that’s the way we grew up.

      1. manimal says:

        Oops. I put this comment in the wrong spot. It was meant to be a reply to Thabiti.

  4. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

    Thank you for this. I really appreciate the sound theological approach to thinking through some of the cultural practices that are just uncritically accepted in many of our evangelical churches.

    The tradition you grew up in is different from mine. I agree that it is perfectly acceptable biblically for a woman to pray during the Sunday morning service.

    But, there’s something else in my experience that – and I really believe it’s unintentional – “benches” sisters with regard to prayer. In almost any gathered group of believers I’m apart of, it is expect that a man will be the one to pray if only one prayer is offered. If there is a group prayer, one man who is the designated leader will ask another man to open and then he will close in prayer. Of course, womens’ prayers are allowed to be part of the “filling” sandwiched between the masculine prayers, but the man in charge will NEVER designate a woman to pray, unless there is only one female person being prayed for and the situation might possibly be emotional. This subcultural practice appears grounded in a fear that if men don’t lead in prayer, then they will abdicate their “God-given leadership role” everywhere. It may also be because male leaders don’t feel comfortable putting a woman on the spot by asking her to pray (but they are OK w/ putting a man on the spot in that way because they expect that he should be prepared?).

    It’s hard for me to put my finger on but I feel almost like I’m being subversive if I desire to pray in public – and I’m generally a bold woman.

    Is this over-reach on male leadership leading to a Christian sub-culture of theologically anemic women?

    1. LOL @ “prayer sandwich” . :)

      I was raised in the model that precludes women from any prayer or Scripture reading in corporate gatherings, and definitely did as you describe – called exclusively on men to pray/read, and viewed any church that did otherwise as being unbiblical. Interestingly, growing up in that environment produced exactly the kind of spirit you describe, Thabiti – an inward spirit of rebellion and resentment that bred discontent, rather than quelled it. It felt so much like “law-layering”, but at the time I only had the immaturity to resent it, not the maturity to respectfully and Scripturally appeal.

      Now I’m in a church that is moderately less restrictive, albeit seemingly by default, not intent. (IOW – there’s no intentional invitation of women to pray or read Scripture in Sunday School or Bible studies, but neither are they discouraged. It’s still exclusively men on staff on Sunday mornings). It’s now out of deference to one very loved and respected older woman, who I view as a “weaker sister” in this area, that I don’t volunteer to do either in Sunday School, even though I’d like to. I’m already training my daughters to read the Scriptures as actual letters from God to them, and to pray in the language of every day life, not King James English, and certainly not in Christian-ese!

      The one issue my older sister in the Lord has raised, which I see some merit to, is the issue of the intimacy that is fostered during prayer. In prayer, we are communing with the living God of the universe as His children. It’s something my husband and I intentionally did not do until we were engaged. We had been counselled that prayer was one of the most intimate things a couple could engage in, and we’ve certainly experienced that now as a married couple.

      So, I wonder what role this plays, if any. I see and am certainly thankful for the obvious indicators in Scripture that women did pray in public, in the setting of coprorate worship. Perhaps it’s almost a reverse scenario that might be ideal – for women to be more involved in prayer in larger corporate gatherings, but in smaller settings, making it a practice for men and women to pray in separate groups??

      I’m more thinking out loud than speaking out of certain conviction on this one, but as usual, I’m thankful for the fuel for thought.

      1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

        @Rachel Starke

        Have you not read in the scriptures: “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there a man must do the praying”?

        It might be written in invisible ink but it must be there b/c it is practiced so studiously!

        :-)

      2. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

        More seriously, though, given that prayer does foster intimacy, it’s a good question as to the wisdom issues involved in praying together.

        There are various levels of intimacy, ranging from
        stranger -> no intimacy
        to lovers & best friends -> maximum intimacy

        In the middle, there’s acquaintances, business associates, casual friends, family, good friends, etc

        So, it seems like the better question is: What level of intimacy is appropriate for brothers and sisters in the family of God?

        And does praying with and for each other in a small group setting exceed appropriate intimacy or strengthen appropriate intimacy?

  5. Ronda Ray says:

    This is so informative. Thanks for tackling the subject. As a woman of God who has occupied numerous leadership positions, my heart has only ever been to undergird the mission of the senior leadership. Unfortunately, there are many cases where there is an absence of strong, godly male leadership and the women must step up. But you are right, humble godly women long for godly male leadership. This is a great resource.

    Ronda Ray
    Author of Prayer Revolution, How God Refined My Connection With Heaven. http://www.onereformationinternational.com

  6. Ken says:

    I love the fact that we have to begin a blog such as this one with the comment “I’m a complementarian but …”. It’s looks like an attempt to deflect the vitriol that we know might get generated. And isn’t that just a shame?

  7. Jim Upchurch says:

    Hi Thabiti,

    How about a post or comment on women leading congregational singing. Do you think that is exercising authority or teaching?

  8. henrybish says:

    Thabiti,

    I really appreciate your ministry and it is great to have voices from your part of the culture in this resurgence in reformed theology.

    However, as a brother in Christ I would like to ask if you would give some more time to prayerfully consider the position of more conservative complementarians. Here is an article I found from Monergism.com that interacts with the best scholarship on the alleged 1Cor11:5 vs 1Cor14:34-36 tension:

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/women-prophesying.html

    There was also an article in CBMW a while back by Carl Laney that is referenced in the footnotes.

    I just think that your view tends towards a complementarianism that is such only in name and ultimately leads to a slippery slope since in view of the whole congregation women are pretty much doing everything that men do, and it requires some exegesis that many in the congregation deep down find implausible. I know there is a strong pressure for complementarians to be as inclusive as possible but I’m very sceptical whether we should eat that fruit that is being offered to us. Is it from God? There is a way that seems right to a man… and Eve was deceived by following what she thought seemed a desirable thing.

    Thanks again

    1. Thabiti says:

      Dear brother,

      Thank you for the “push back” and for the article from Monergism. I enjoyed reading the piece and I’m grateful for the ways your interaction help me to grow. May we all grow and receive more light as we interact with God’s word and each other.

      Having read the article, I can’t say I find it convincing. Rather than the selective survey of commentators taking a strong conservative position on 1 Cor. 14, I wish the writer had done more than just footnote scholars and thinkers like Carson, Grudem, and Hurley in the first two footnotes. After all, in our generation, when this issue has reached pitched battle in the culture unlike any generation before, Grudem et al have been on the frontlines of safeguarding the Bible’s teaching on gender roles. I should think they deserve more than a passing (dismissive?) footnote.

      I know the author comes back to some Carson points later on, but one doesn’t get the sense that he deals faithfully with these brothers’ positions on the text. Also, the almost “rabbinical” approach to developing his position (selectively quoting commentators through the ages) leaves much to be desired. I’d rather he wrestle with the text more. Footnote everybody and wrestle with the text, or quote everyone (pro and con) instead of just one “camp” of interpreters.

      Obviously I would disagree with the slippery slope argument you make. Nor am I trying to do what is right in my own eyes. I’m trying to pastorally wrestle with an important issue by not going beyond the text of Scripture and at least questioning some cherished complementarian applications. Surely you wouldn’t argue that everything labeled “complementarian” deserves the name or finds sanction in Scripture? To the extent that’s true, we owe our sisters a deliberate and prayerful examination of our positions, to test them all by the light of God’s holy word. That’s my hope.

      Grace and peace,
      T

      1. henrybish says:

        Thanks very much for your interaction even if you may disagree. I appreciate your willingness to engage with the thoughts that laymen like myself have. I hope that I can take other peoples questions as seriously as you do.

        All the very best and thanks again.

  9. henrybish says:

    Rachel Starke,

    I am intrigued by your comment that being raised in a church that precludes women from any prayer or Scripture reading in corporate gatherings produced in you a feeling of rebellion and resentment.

    In your experience, have all the women raised in that kind of church responded similarly? I have recently been attending a church with Brethren roots (they have always taken 1Cor14:34-36 at face value) and a girl there was telling me how much she disagreed with this one woman who was pushing the boundaries so to speak, so it seems to me that at least some of the women’s resentment is in the other direction.

    Surely it is possible to take 1Cor14:34-36 at face value at the same time as treating women with great respect and value? I just think of Charles Spurgeon who said he did not want women to enter the pulpit and yet he spoke so kindly a graciously to them and singled out things especially for the women in his sermons that they would surely not have gone away with a feeling of resentment.

    Was the resentment you felt more a product of the lack of kindness and honour the men in that church showed towards the women rather than the doctrine per se? Or not? Or was it because it was done in a spirit of legalism?

    I would be very interested to know what particularly makes a woman feel resentment in churches who take a more conservative view of the gender verses.

    Thanks

    1. Henry,

      The practices of restricting public prayer and Scripture to men were two among many others, including:

      Passive discouragement of women praying or reading Scripture at any church event – eg. Small group Bible study. Women were not called on, and women that volunteered were looked at with suspicion.

      Sponsoring a variety of ministry events to refresh, encourage and equip ministry workers, to which women were specifically not invited (even wives of those ministry workers)

      Staff wives of any age or stage being forbidden to have any outside employment or source of income, even though staff salaries were prohibitively low

      Bible studies and events for women being continually centered on Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 and their extra-scriptural, subjective mechanics, rather than all of Scripture

      Attitudes that elevated the callings of teaching, leading and full time missions over “secular” callings to business or trades

      Lack of mentoring of women at all ages and stages in how to develop leadership, management and teaching skills to better minister to women

      Passively permitting men to voice opinions that women with Home Ec degrees were in a higher-tier of eligibility for marriage, than a woman with a business degree

      As Thabiti has been arguing, when a church is very outspoken in their restrictions, but not equally outspoken in their affirmation and equipping of women in their varied callings, that’s where women fall into resentment.

      One other important thing. During my years at this church (as a young Christian and young adult, although my childhood was spent in other similar ones), I was without question immature, prone to being excessively outspoken, cynical, etc. Frankly, I cringe when I remember that season. But what prompted my growth in these areas was not the ongoing emphasis of the law of confining complementarianism. It was discovering the freedom of the gospel, understanding what it means to have my identity rooted in Christ, and a deepening understanding of the Trinity. Even wrestling with feeing set aside or unfed is an opportunity to remember all that is mine in Christ and laid up for me in heaven. The cross tells me all I need to know about who I am, whether my feelings are true or lies generated from sinful pride.

  10. Rick Owen says:

    Another closely-related motif to Thabiti’s thoughts is the priesthood of believers. Women are priests too.

    What should priests do under the New Covenant? Essentially what they did under the Old Covenant, but in a Christ-centered way:

    – Prepare and purify themselves for worship (a.k.a. “service” to God and His people).
    – Proclaim the Name of the Lord and His works according to His truth.
    – Present sacrifices.
    – Pray (including petitions and intercession for others).
    – Pronounce mercy and grace (forgiveness and blessing upon the people).

    Under the New Covenant, all true worshipers are to worship God “in spirit and truth” (which covers the first two activities of a priest), offer up spiritual sacrifices, pray for one another, and bless, build up and encourage one another by sharing God’s mercy and grace in Christ (in word and deed).

    1 Peter 2:5 & 9 summarizes this priesthood and its activities which apply to every believer:

    “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

    “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

    Notice the two activities mentioned: “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” and “proclaim the excellencies of [God]”.

    Was this written only to men? Clearly not. This letter was addressed “to God’s elect” (1:1) and concludes with an honorable mention of greetings from a woman as one of God’s elect: “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings” (5:13).

    Revelation 1:5-6 points to this priesthood as part of God’s eternal purpose for ALL of His people which Christ secured by His work of atonement:

    “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

    If this is part of God’s design and Christ’s blood-bought blessing for His people, should half the priesthood (women) not fulfill their priestly privileges and duties? Should half the priesthood remain passive or silent?

    Additional resources for reflection:

    http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/interview-with-jon-zens-on-his-new-book-whats-with-paul-women-unlocking-the-cultural-background-to-1-timothy-2/

    http://www.restorationgj.com/id94.htm

    http://www.his-kingdom.net/women/each-one-of-you-has-a-song.html

  11. Richard Owen says:

    Another biblical concept which relates directly to your thoughts on women praying is the priesthood of believers. Women are priests too.

    What should priests do under the New Covenant? Essentially what they did under the Old Covenant, but in a Christ-centered way:

    – Prepare and purify themselves for worship (a.k.a. “service” to God and His people).
    – Proclaim the Name of the Lord and His works according to His truth.
    – Present sacrifices.
    – Pray (including petitions and intercession for others).
    – Pronounce mercy and grace (forgiveness and blessing upon the people).

    Under the New Covenant, all true worshipers are to worship God “in spirit and truth” (which covers the first two activities of a priest), offer up spiritual sacrifices, pray for one another, and bless, build up and encourage one another by sharing God’s mercy and grace in Christ (in word and deed).

    1 Peter 2:5 & 9 summarizes this priesthood and its activities which apply to every believer:

    “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

    “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

    Notice the two activities mentioned: “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” and “proclaim the excellencies of [God]”.

    Was this written only to men? Clearly not. This letter was addressed “to God’s elect” (1:1) and concludes with an honorable mention of greetings from a woman as one of God’s elect: “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings” (5:13).

    Revelation 1:5-6 points to this priesthood as part of God’s eternal purpose for ALL of His people which Christ secured by His work of atonement:

    “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

    If this is part of God’s design and Christ’s blood-bought blessing for His people, should half the priesthood (women) not fulfill their priestly privileges and duties? Should half the priesthood remain passive or silent?

  12. Rick Owen says:

    Please pardon my double post. After the first time I posted, it seemed to disappear. So I posted again. =o/

  13. Susan says:

    I am happy to comment here for I think this article makes some very good points. Of course, women do not want to have an experience in the church of being devalued and shut out — of not having a voice. This type experience is contrary to what Christ does for both male and female when he saves us and frees us from our own devices. I believe that a woman being truly valued, supported and heard adds a richness and depth to the dynamic of church fellowship and relationships that promotes God’s order and His way in the hearts of both men and women.

  14. Pingback: Saturday Links
  15. clark wade says:

    I just ran into this article because of the great picture of our sisters in Christ. I thought you might appreciate this article by Frank Viola on the role of women in the church. http://frankviola.org/role.pdf

    Blessings,

    Clark Wade

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Clark,

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the discussion. I read Wade’s article and did not find it persuasive. His hermeneutical approach kills his argument, imo. He moves from a broad notion of “New Covenant theology” (without adequately defining it, in my opinion) to rule out a priori any limitations imposed by key texts. We shouldn’t use broadly theological frameworks to avoid exegeting texts, and exegeting texts should lead us to our broad theological frameworks. I briefly talk about this here: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile/2011/01/08/complementarity-and-hermeneutics/.

      Thanks for the link. The Lord bless you today,
      T-

  16. Rick Owen says:

    Clark, I read Frank’s article and thought it seemed pretty persuasive. Then I re-read this one and it seemed persuasive too: https://www.ntrf.org/articles/article_detail.php?PRKey=16

    I guess I’m still ‘processing’ this.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Rick

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Rick,
      Thanks for the link. Yeah, I find this article more compelling for its careful handling of the 1 Cor. 14 text.
      T-

  17. Gin says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for the great article. I am not sure if my inquire would require a new article in itself, but I would love to hear your thoughts on women prophesying in a church service and how that might differ for men prophesying. I feel that I see women walk in this gift and see how abundantly beneficial it is within the body, but I have never seen it practiced well in a service.

    Thank you again for your great article.

  18. Briley says:

    I could hug you right now. You are saying things in these posts that describe my “angst” (for lack of a better term) as a woman who desperately wants to honor God’s Word, but who often feels like the last kid picked for dodgeball in respectable evangelical circles. As a woman about to enter seminary to be a worship leader in the local church, these posts are encouraging me to fulfill all of God’s purposes for me, not the ones “annexed” by well intentioned (and generally male) leaders. These have an all together different tone than some work I’ve seen on other sites (especially CBMW) which often promote the super masculine and limiting view of headship. There should be freedom in our distinctions, not limitations other than what God demands. While I firmly uphold that homemaking is a noble pursuit, I often feel very left out as a woman who has not children with a husband who does not hunt or watch sports. All of that to say…thank you for your reasonable tone.

    1. Gin says:

      Hello Briley, I would actually love to talk more with you if you’re interested. I’m a seminary student, and think about these issues a lot. My email is gstone85@gmail.com, if you’re interested.

  19. I do not even understand how I finished up right here, however I thought this submit used to be good. I do not understand who you’re however certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you happen to aren’t already. Cheers!

  20. We stumbled over here coming from a different
    web address and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to checking out your web page again.

  21. If you presently have a lot more than one of thhe lifestyle habits bulleted above, choose one
    particular and focus on enhancing it for at ledast two weeks.

    Have a look at mmy web-site: quick weight loss center supplements

  22. Hi , saya log on ke Anda baru barang secara teratur.
    Anda menulis gaya mengagumkan , itu!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Search this blog


About


Thabiti Anyabwile photo

Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Thabiti Anyabwile's Books