The Bible and Women in Church Leadership: A Young Actress’s Perspective, Part 1

Part 4 in series: Women of Faith in Leadership

Allowing women to teach and lead men is either a ploy from the devil to destroy the God-ordained male leadership structures of the church, or the God-ordained plan to release the full potential of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of over half the members of the body of Christ.

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Editor’s Note: Last spring an aspiring young actress came to my wife and I in deep distress over the apparent lack of support for women in ministry both in her faith community and in Scripture. We pointed her toward some scholarly resources and spent hours talking her through a new way of approaching this critical issue. She ended up writing a paper for her faith community on the subject. We thought was too good not to share. I helped her edit and strengthen it and post it here with her permission. -GDS

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The Bible and Women in Church Leadership:

Confronting the Bewildering Extremes

By Esther Junia[1]

Paul seems to be saying that a woman’s posture when she comes to church should be, “Sit down. Cover your head. And shut up!” (Rembrandt, ‘The apostle Paul,’ 1633, Kunsthistorisches Museum)

The role of women in church leadership is a big deal for Christ followers in my generation.  It causes division among my Christian friends, untold heartache among my girl friends with ministry gifts, and a huge black eye in my generation’s view of the church.
It is also extremely confusing. A quick reading of the New Testament shows the apostle Paul commanding Timothy to make sure that women never teach men, yet Luke (Paul’s traveling companion) records that Priscilla’s instruction of Apollos revolutionizes the ministry of one of the greatest preachers in the New Testament. Paul tells the Corinthians that it is “disgraceful” for a woman to speak in church, right after he has given them instructions for how women should dress when they do speak, prophesy, and pray in church.  Paul leaves women completely out of the equation when he instructs Titus in how find overseers/elders in his church, yet he calls at least one Roman woman “outstanding among the apostles,” a much more significant role. Peter declares that the meaning of Pentecost is the fulfillment of an age-old prophecy that anointing of the Holy Spirit to minister will come upon women every bit as much as men, yet the New Testament mentions only a handful of female leaders.
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Confronting the Bewildering Extremes

Priscilla’s instruction of Apollos helps to revolutionize the ministry of one of the greatest preachers in the New Testament.

If you begin with one set of scriptures you could easily conclude that a woman’s posture when she comes to church should be, “Sit down. Cover your head. And shut up!”  Yet, if you begin with a different set you might conclude that God is preparing women of faith to one day overthrow male-dominated hierarchies and take their rightful place in the Body of Christ and rule the world!
How on earth is a young (and completely disempowered) woman in a 21st Century American church (in Hollywood of all places) ever going to determine which of these perspectives is “biblical” when the Scriptural contradictions on both sides of this issue are so bewildering?  As someone who strives to live my life in the light of Scripture, I have wrestled long and hard over this one, especially since the Bible seems to support the views of people on both sides of the issue.

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Ducking the Question?

In truth, it would be easier to simply duck the question, but this really isn’t a halfway proposition.  To join a church that says one thing, but practices another isn’t an option for me.  (And Hollywood churches on both sides of this issue are strangely inconsistent with their stated viewpoints.) I have to decide if want to join a church that fully embraces women in ministry, or one that doesn’t. It is either a matter of biblical integrity to exclude women from Sunday morning teaching and senior level leadership, or it is a matter of biblical integrity to resist their exclusion.
Allowing women to teach and lead men is either a ploy from the devil to destroy the God-ordained male leadership structures of the church, or the God-ordained plan to release the full potential of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of over half the members of the body of Christ. (Okay, I’m being a little dramatic there. I am an actress after all.)
Through a painstaking intellectual journey I have come to a conclusion my conscience can live with.  I could be wrong, but here’s my current thinking…

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NEXT:  The Case Against Women in Ministry Leadership


[1] Due to the complexities of a Hollywood career, “Esther” decided to write under an alias. While Gary David Stratton served as co-author, he has also decided to leave his name off the post in the spirit of Esther’s desire to speak on behalf of many young women of faith.

[2] C.C. Kroeger, I Suffer Not A Woman, 117-125, 171-177.

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