Tag Archive: elders


COMPLEMENTARIANISM – A FORM OF PATRIARCHY

Complementarianism is a belief that limits the roles of a wife to those that won’t infringe on her husband as head ‘over’ her. As such, Complementarianism is a form of patriarchy, but, unlike full-blown Patriarchy, which has women subject to men in every area of society, this version is restricted to how it effects the spousal relationship. The basis for this belief is their interpretation of Biblical passages like Eph 5:23, 1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35. (Click on the references for an Egalitarian/Mutualist view of these passages).

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

In a nutshell, Complementarian wives cannot take on any leadership roles in society where they are ‘over’ their husbands. And so, fueled by a common misconception that church leadership roles are hierarchical, despite Jesus commanding to the contrary (Matt 20:25-27), Complementarians restrict women in church roles too, in order to prevent them from violating their concept of male headship in the home. In fact, when it comes to church leadership, Complementarians are especially quick to implement this practice, believing that Paul was addressing the possible violation of this spousal headship structure in passages like 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35.

HEAD – AUTHORITY OR SOURCE?

What is clear is that this belief hinges on the principle of hierarchical headship in the home. However, even though Ephesians 5:23 certainly does speak of the husband as head (Gk. kephale) of the wife, the biblical era meaning of ‘head’ (Gk. kephale) means source and not rank headship. Also, to note, is that the text says that ‘the husband is the head of (not over) the wife, even as Christ is the head of (not over) the church, which also fits with that era’s use of ‘head’ as source and not authority.

But, someone might ask, what of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that reads: 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.

Here, the term “head”, from the Gk. kephale, is also to be understood as “source” or “origin”, without the idea of rank, and carrying  the idea of chronology and not hierarchy.

To further substantiate this, the sequence in 1Cor 11:3 shows that hierarchy wasn’t the meaning. The sequence in the text is: Man – Christ, Wife – Husband, Christ – God

If hierarchy was the meaning, then it would have had this order: Wife – Husband, Man – Christ, Christ – God

Thirdly, hierarchical interpretation of this passage begs the question, is the ascended Christ, the Son of God, under God? As the Word, having been equal to God, He relinquished His equality for our salvation, but isn’t He restored to equality with God with ALL authority in heaven and earth? And, only at the end will He subject Himself to God again (see 1 Cor 15:28).

ORDER BY CHRONOLOGY ACCORDING TO ORIGIN/SOURCE

The source of every man is Christ (ADAM was made by Christ)

The source of the woman is the man (Eve came from Adam; also descriptive of that time when a husband was the main provider of physical resources and spiritual food which he could access more easily and from which she was often deprived access)

The source of Christ is God (Christ from God, Begotten of God, God became flesh to be the Christ)

Consider Cyril of Alexandria (5th century): “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was made through Him and brought forward to birth…. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.”

MUTUAL SUBMISSION

Furthermore, Eph 5:21 says ‘submitting yourselves one to another’, which clarifies that the male headship spoken of in Eph 5:23 must be understood within the context of mutual submission and not rank leadership, even if men had this kind of authority through state legislation or culturally. In fact, the term ‘submit’ in Eph 5:22 is not in the Greek, which clearly shows that wives were being directed to the same ‘submitting…one to another’ of Eph 5:21, and not another.

Even in the unlikely event that ‘head’ did mean rank headship in this passage, it should be seen as being descriptive of a husband in New Testament society, who automatically acquired legal authority over his household by virtue of his gender, but as prescriptive of how he ought to behave, given his position, for the sake of his wife and not primarily his own. Understood this way, Paul was being prescriptive within the confines of Roman society’s boundaries, just as he was with slave owners and slaves.

NO CHURCH HIERARCHY

Ironically, neither the meaning of source or rank for ‘head’ would preclude a wife from becoming an elder or pastor in a church and thereby interfere with the supposed spousal rank ‘headship’ principle, because there is no hierarchy in the Church where anyone is ranked ‘over’ another, except Jesus as Lord. That said, it is evident that the passages on Jesus being ‘head of’ His body also have to do with Him being the source rather than being about rank leadership, though it is clear from other contexts that He has this too.

SUBMIT TO HUSBAND

Also ironic is that if one takes a Mutualist (Egalitarian) or Complementarian view here and considers the likely scenario where a husband agrees or allows (depending on the view) his wife to be a pastor, elder, governor, or the country’s president, either by mutual consensus or authority over (again, depending on the view), then the outcome would be that she may, for Eph 5:23 says that it is to her husband that she is supposed to submit. And so, no church or any other man has the authority to stop her.

COMPLEX, BEYOND BELIEF

The Complementarian narrative centers around subordinate roles of a wife in relation to her husband, but the exact parameters for women in general, and each woman in particular, appears to be subject to the discretion and influence of male church leaders who claim Biblical authority for their exclusively male role and their varying interpretations. Furthermore, the application of their belief becomes so tricky, given their various interpretations, that it is hard to imagine that God would have given us something so difficult to pin down. Not to mention that the complexity of applying their belief increases and varies even more when we step out of the spousal relationship and consider leadership for single women or widows that don’t fall under these headship passages.

Q – Doesn’t the naming of Eve show that Adam had authority over her?

A – No, both male and female were created in the image of God and they were given shared authority to rule (Gen 1:28).

Brief explanation:

There is a Jewish tradition that the one who does the naming of another has authority over the one named. There is, however, no evidence that Adam had authority over the Woman when he called her ‘Woman’ and later named her ‘Eve’.

The two occasions where Adam ‘named’ the Woman were unlike the naming of the animals that God brought ‘to the man to see what he would call them.’

The first time that Adam saw the woman he exclaimed, ‘she shall be called Woman’. This was done out of a response to what he saw and out of his free will and NOT by God’s command, leading, or for God’s own interest (as with the animals).

The second time, when he names her ‘Eve’, it is after the Fall and so we cannot interpret anything from this with regard to God’s original intention that is seen in Gen 1:28.

For further explanation:

Naming of Eve and Adam’s Authority

Other questions:

Women in the Church – Common Questions

Q & A

Q – Isn’t the wife supposed to be the husband’s ‘helper’?

A – Yes and No. The woman that was made to be with Adam was called his ‘help meet’ (Greek EZER KENEGDO), not his ‘helpmate’.

Brief explanation:

Ezer (help) does not mean from a lesser being. The same term is used of God helping us. It speaks of power and strength.

Kenegdo (meet) means a corresponding counterpart. In other words, the woman was to be a strength where Adam was weak.

For further explanation:

Naming of Eve and Adam’s Authority – see paragraph on EZER KENEGDO (‘help meet’)

Ezer Kenegdo (help meet) – from God’s Word to Women

Other questions:

Women in the Church – Common Questions

scottsnyde (Scott Snyder) http://www.rgbstock.com/user/scottsnyde

Q – Doesn’t the Bible say that wives are to submit to their husbands as their ‘head’?

A – Yes and No. Yes, only if the term ‘head’ (Greek: kephale) is understood as ‘origin’ or ‘source’ without the meaning of rank. The Bible teaches mutual submission between spouses.

Brief explanation:

1 Corinthians 11:3 reads: ‘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.’ Here, the term ‘head’, from the Greek kephale, is to be understood as ‘source’ or ‘origin’ without the idea of rank and has as its meaning the idea of chronology and not hierarchy. For more on 1 Cor 11:3.

Ephesians 5:22-24 reads: ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.’

Firstly, it is key to note that just prior to these verses, verse 21 says: ‘…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Secondly, being ‘head’ meant that husbands were to be the source (kephale) of love, care and provision for their wives as Christ is for the Church. It did not mean that they were to be their lords or have rank above their wives as Christ has over the Church.

For further explanation:

Husbands (and wives), Deprive and Dominate or Supply and Share

God’s Plan for Gender Equality in the Home, Church and all of Society

The Fallacy around Male Headship in the Home and in the Church

Other questions:

Women in the Church – Common Questions

mokra (Marcelo Mokrejs) www.rgbstock.com/user/mokra

mokra (Marcelo Mokrejs)
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/mokra

Q – Can women be elders (leaders/pastors) in the church?

A – Yes, Paul says, ‘If anyone (Greek tis – a gender neutral term) wants to be an elder…’

Brief explanation:

In Christ we are restored to the equality at creation (Gen 1:28) and male rule that came about as a result of the Fall (Gen 3:16) is ended for those ‘in Christ’ where there is ‘neither male nor female’ (Gal 3:28). Both redeemed men and women are called ‘Sons of God’ and Christians are to regard ‘no man according to the flesh’.

For further explanation:

Can Women be Elders? – Part 1

Can Women be Elders? – Part 2

A Road to Egalitarianism

Apostles – Twelve Men, No Women?

Let Women Teach and with Authority

God’s Plan for Gender Equality in the Home, Church and all of Society

Other questions:

Women in the Church – Common Questions

COBRASoft (Sigurd Decroos) www.rgbstock.com/user/COBRASoft

COBRASoft (Sigurd Decroos)
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/COBRASoft

Q – Doesn’t the Bible say that women are to ‘keep silent’ in church?

A – No. In fact it says just the opposite.

Brief explanation:

Paul was clearly exasperated that such an idea was proposed and responded with ‘What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?’ (See 1 Cor 14:34-36).

Also, Paul would be contradicting himself if he taught that women were to keep silent. Consider that he says in 1 Cor 14:26, ‘…when ye come together, EVERY ONE of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation…’ This would have been impossible for women if they had been commanded to ‘keep silent’ in church.

In the context of 1 Tim 2:12, where it says ‘…she (a woman/wife) is to remain quiet/silent’, the term ‘silent’ is better translated ‘in quietness/quietly’, which suggests refraining from bustle and chatter.

For further explanation:

‘Let your women keep silence in the churches.’ Really?

Let Women Teach and with Authority

God’s Plan for Gender Equality in the Home, Church and all of Society

Other questions:

Women in the Church – Common Questions

Picture: katagaci (Moi Cody) www.rgbstock.com/user/katagaci

Picture: katagaci (Moi Cody)
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/katagaci

CLICK ON THE QUESTION OR ANSWER FOR A FULLER EXPLANATION

1. Doesn’t the Bible say that women are to ‘keep silent’ in church?

NO

2. Can women be elders (leaders/pastors) in the church?

YES

3. Doesn’t the Bible say that wives are to submit to their husbands as their ‘head’?

YES and NO

4. Isn’t the wife supposed to be the husband’s ‘helper’?

YES and NO

5. Doesn’t the naming of Eve show that Adam had authority over her?

NO

In Part 1, I consider that Gender neutrality is evident in 1 Tim 3:1, indicating that from the outset God is open to both male and female elders. 1Tim 3:1 reads, “This is a true saying, If a man (Gk. tis – anyone) desire the office of a bishop, he (not in Gk.) desireth a good work.

However, even if Paul had only males in mind for elders when writing to Timothy, we need to keep in mind that Paul was not writing a manual, but a letter for an occasion and our interpretation of God’s word needs to keep this in mind. As such, we should consider that Paul was quite easily being descriptive of elders and deacons as males, for this was where the church was at socially, but that this was not necessarily being prescriptive for eternity.

This is obvious for us in our time on the issue of slavery, about which Paul also wrote on concerning slaves and slave-owners, and yet we do not take what he wrote as an endorsement of slavery. Also, we do not believe that his writing on slavery within the church requires it to be an eternally prescriptive element for church and society, though it is in the eternal word of God. Why? Because we have learned to interpret, sensitive to the context and not willy-nilly apply what we read.

So, just as slavery was not being endorsed by its inclusion in Paul’s writings, female eldership is not to be disallowed by its exclusion from his writings, if indeed it was excluded.

Remember, that in Christ we are restored to the equality at creation (Gen 1:28), male rule since the fall (Gen 3:16) is ended, and there is “neither male nor female”, we are all “Sons of God” and we regard “no man according to the flesh”. What reason then would God have to be gender exclusive when it comes to the role of eldership? None!

Rob Morley

Complementarians prohibit women from eldership citing 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:5-9, which refer to the need for elders to be the “husband of one wife”. However, they fail to see the flaw in this logic because, by doing this, they would have to prohibit single men and widowers too, for these are not “husband of one wife” either.

Clearly, the stipulation of “husband of one wife” was concerning the typical candidate of Paul’s day – an experienced married man. In his instructions to Timothy and Titus, Paul focusses in on the typical. As such, he was not giving a blueprint that would reject single men and women. No doubt, women would have been unusual candidates in that period of history and especially in a religion born from Judaism, but not for the Spirit and the future that He had in mind as illustrated in His word. The stipulation of “husband of one wife” has its focus on the necessity for monogamy if married and not on gender or marriage status, i.e. being single or married.

Gender neutrality is evident in 1 Tim 3:1, indicating that from the outset God is open to both male and female elders. 1Tim 3:1 reads, “This is a true saying, If a man (Gk. tis – anyone) desire the office of a bishop, he (not in Gk.) desireth a good work.

When describing the requirements for elders (and deacons), Paul focusses on the typical candidate of his time, a spiritually sound and experienced married man. As such, he does not mention women, single men and widowers, but he is in no way excluding them. He then returns to gender neutrality in 1 Tim 3:5

Gender neutral:

1Tim 3:1, This is a true saying, If a man (Gk. tis – anyone) desire the office of a bishop, he (not in Gk.) desireth a good work.

Focus on a typical married male candidate:

1Tim 3:2-4 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity

Gender neutral:

1Tim 3:5 For if a man (Gk. Tis –anyone) know not how to rule his (not in Gk.) own house, how shall he (not in Gk.) take care of the church of God?

As I see it, The Holy Spirit’s choice of the gender-neutral word “tis” in 1 Tim 3:1 and 3:5, indicates His intention for the meaning to include both males and females. Also, the obvious calling of single men as elders clearly shows that these texts were not as prohibiting as they may first appear.

(I would like to add that even if only males were meant in these texts, this still does not imply that they prohibit females. I will explore this idea in part two.)

Remember, that in Christ we are restored to the equality at creation (Gen 1:28), male rule since the fall (Gen 3:16) is ended, and there is “neither male nor female”, we are all “Sons of God” and we regard “no man according to the flesh”. What reason then would God have to be gender exclusive when it comes to the role of eldership? None!

Rob Morley

Picture by Adrian van Leen http://www.rgbstock.com/user/TACLUDA

Picture by Adrian van Leen
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/TACLUDA

It is often said that one reason we cannot have women as elders in the church is because Jesus did not select any women as one of the twelve apostles. But is this a fair argument?

Jesus, Radical and Wise

While Jesus was radical is His approach, He was wise too. He did not have a lot of time and women were restricted in ways that would take generations to change. In His day, the males were trained in the Scriptures far more than the females and men were culturally accepted to be listened to much more than women were. Also, it would have appeared very inappropriate in His day to have a team that comprised of both genders living together as He and His apostles needed to.

Unfair Argument

As a basis for the selection of church elders, the argument that Jesus never chose a female apostle to be among the twelve is clearly biased too, because He also never chose a Gentile and yet we are happy to have Gentile elders. Just as Gentile elders are not disproved by Jesus choice of 12 Jews as His apostles, neither are women. The basis for Gentile selection as elders is found elsewhere in God’s word and so is the basis for female selection as elders.

Clearly, having Gentiles or women as the main apostolic witnesses to all that He said and did would have been untimely and would have frustrated more than helped the cause. In short, He chose Jewish men simply because they had the cultural access needed to speak in the Temple and synagogues that neither women nor Gentiles had.

Jesus Empowered Women

Jesus’ approach toward women was very radical and would help pave the way for their eventual full emancipation and participation. He began ringing changes by teaching women both publically and privately and commissioning them with messages to share to men and women, none more profound than the announcement of the resurrection which He gave to Mary Magdalene to share with the apostles.

The full outworking of God’s principles toward women has its foundation in Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Rob Morley

Other related posts:

A Road to Egalitarianism

Let Women Teach with Authority

Naming of Eve and Adam’s Authority

Husbands, Submit to Your Wives

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