Thursday, October 07, 2010

Fourth of five -- the 2nd hottest topic in Churches of Christ

Why not go out with a bang this week? Tonight I'll briefly write about what is probably the 2nd most controversial topic in Churches of Christ (mine and my family's long-time congregation).

The role of women in church services.

That may sound ridiculous to those of you without a deep religious background in your family. And it probably sounds ridiculous to those from other walks of faith as well, but this is hardly just a Church of Christ issue. Catholics, Episcopalians, even Muslims are wrestling mightily with this clash of 21st Century cultural values and much older religous values and traditions.

I won't go into those cultural values... that would take too long. Instead I'd like to consider the writings of Paul that have led to this clash in the first place. Upon a quick reading of our English translations, it appears in his letter to the church of Corinth and in other places that Paul feels women should be silent in church.

More examination complicates matters, as usual. The context of his writings involved a time of pagan worship on a massive scale, which also came with prostitution, drunkenness, loud and chaotic assemblies, and role-reversal (women and men mixing clothes and mannerisms). Each of these topics get addressed in his letter to Corinth -- it appears to me that Paul wants to distinguish Christians from these other groups such as the cult of Dionysus. And 1 Corinthians 11 seems to make it clear that women are indeed allowed to pray and prophesy in worship assembly.

And if you dive into the Greek text, "silence" doesn't seem to be the only translation of Paul's instructions. In 1 Corithians, the word "gentleness" would be equally accurate, and in 1 Timothy... well, the Greek word "authentein" is the word translated as silence, and it appears nowhere else in the entire New Testament.

Perhaps today's church interprets the texts correctly, and women should have been held out of ministry, speaking and worship positions for the past 2,000 years. Or perhaps we have it wrong.

Either way, in my opinion this is one of the top two issues in our church today, in terms of tension and explosive potential. Tomorrow I'll wrap up the week with what I feel is #1.


Debby said...

I've always viewed it like this. Jesus came into this world to show us a new way. He showed us, again and again, that all of our silly rules were not the way to get into heaven. This really upset the status quo.

Now, in that light, think of who he first revealed himself to. A woman. A low woman at that, someone that 'decent' people did not go talking to. He spoke to the woman at the well. He revealed himself as the Messiah. That's pretty big news, and it was imparted to a woman. What do you suppose that Jesus was trying to say there?

God created us all, and while we might have different biological functions, but I don't see that we differ in a spiritual capacity.

Bob said...

Great analysis of this topic, Michael, and like many great teachers, you invite your readers to think for themselves.

That's as opposed to some of our churches which have said, this is how it is, this is what Paul meant.

I'm not in the C of C, but a non-denom. church that teaches a literal and timeless reading of the NT passages to which you refer.

I beg to differ. After daring to question, then read from learned scholars who have studied this, I believe men and women are equally qualified to be pastors, elders, deacons, etc. and by disqualifying half of our congregations, we do our entire body a great disservice.

This is not a popular view in my church and I have to be very reserved in speaking my mind. After all, I don't have to stay there and the constitution guarantees our right to worship and congregate as we choose.

But sometimes I have to speak up.

I am so glad you are back here posting. You always make me think.

Oh yeah, be SURE and send me the link when you take the pulpit at your church and speak on this topic!

Redlefty said...

Bob, you give me too much credit in a couple of ways.

Especially when it comes to my preaching -- I'm not going anywhere near this topic in our church yet! My congregation just isn't ready.

My next sermon will be on loving our enemies, and while it's not nearly as explosive as some of these other issues, I've found a way to make it suitably uncomfortable for life-long Christians to hear. :)

Bob said...

Can't wait!