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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sexism in the Church--Women in Ministry Post #1

Some of my female worship leader/musician friends have had to endure some criticism in recent days. Every once in awhile the issue of “women in ministry” still rears its ugly head in some unfortunate and hurtful ways.

There are good Christian men and women who line up on both sides of some issues regarding women in ministry but since my friends have had some questions lately I thought it would be good to post some food for thought.

In order to digest it in bite-sized pieces, I will split it up into a few different posts.

I believe that a history of sexism has shaped a portion of Biblical interpretation and teaching. Political, social, and religious opinion leaders have heralded sexist thought throughout the centuries. I found some interesting quotes from some well respected leaders that I thought would be fun to kick around.

Aristotle wrote . . . “The courage of a man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying . . . all classes must be deemed to have their special attributes; as the poet says of women, “Silence is a woman’s glory, but this is not equally the glory of man.” I guess that speech is somehow a privilege belonging to males. And, I might add, Aristotle was not talking about church, he was talking about public places . . . period.

Sexism wasn’t exclusive to the Greek culture Aristotle lived in. Many sources report that in the first Century of Christendom, Roman culture required women’s silence nearly as much and most likely more than the Grecian culture. These things clearly influenced the church leaders.

The famous reformer Martin Luther, the man who stood up against injustices in the church, the man who risked his life to talk about the concept of grace once said, “I wish that women would repeat the Lord’s prayer before opening their mouths.” Now, I doubt that, in today’s society, with our advanced media, that kind of statement would go over well from the lips of a church leader. Or, any leader for that matter. Luther would be all over YouTube and we would be blogging about him.

Origen has been quoted as saying, “It is not proper for a woman to speak in church, however admirable or holy what she says, merely because it comes from female lips.”

Thomas Acquinas refused women to speak in church because it was an invitation to lust.

Tertullian described women as the gateway of the devil and blamed them for leading men astray through their sexual wiles. Men, try that one out on your wife next time you are in an argument!

These kinds of statements are a dark eclipse on the voices of Christianity past. The story goes it is only since the 1920’s, after the ratification of the 19th Ammendment to the Constituition, that the clergy have been saying the silence of women applies only to “FORMAL” worship. Prior to the 1920’s some biblical passages were applied to prohibit women from engaging in ANY type of formal public speaking. I believe these things, these prejudices, these cultural biases, have tainted good biblical exegesis.