BULLETIN ARTICLE – 16 July 2017
The role of women in the church is traditionally not one which is very public. We do not see many women speakers who speak at the pulpit, nor do women often stand up during our Sunday “open worship” meetings to share. It is more typical for the men to be more vocal and prominent in church than the women.
The Bible also reflects the differences in expected behaviours between the women and the men. They are told to cover their heads, be quiet and silent in churches. Reading such passages in the present day, bearing in mind the contexts of increasing women’s rights and the growing feminist movement, may make the Bible appear sexist, and even marginalising of the women’s role in the church.
However, we must always remember to take such female subservience in its historical context. Often, such instructions were given not because that exact prohibited action was wrong, but because it had interfered with the giving of glory and honour to the Lord. In biblical NT times, if the married women had their heads uncovered, it would show disrespect to their husbands, and by extension disrespect to God. The women may have been asked to be quiet in churches possibly because they were less educated, and their asking of questions in “open services” had disrupted the congregation’s worship to God.
This does not mean that women then and women now have no role in the Church. Even though women were treated in biblical times as substandard to men, Paul went counter culture in reminding the Corinthian Christians that both sexes had to support each other in bringing glory to God. “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Cor 11:8-9). Reading individual passages such as the one before us does make the Bible appear to discriminate against women. However, we must not forget that the Bible has to be read as a whole, and that there are indeed great and strong women figures who have glorified God in their own way.
Queen Esther, is one great example. She is recognised most for her strength, bravery and faith in God, which helped save the Jewish people. She was chosen and used by God for His purpose, and did not let her position as a woman stand in her way. Ruth, Naomi, Hannah, Abigail and Sarah are all strong women of faith, who had big roles in glorifying God. God has chosen many women throughout history, and will continue to do so. God has made it clear that regardless of gender, we can have a role in serving Him and glorifying His name.