In the winter of 2016, the River Community Church voted on and adopted “RCC Staff and Eldership Gender Position“. Below is the rationale for women assuming leadership roles over both men and women in the church. This rationale was accepted and approved by the pastoral team and written in response to a document claiming women should not hold the position of preacher, elder, pastor, or deacon. It has been left in that format.
“Thank you for bringing this information to me. I have taken the time to read through it and here are my responses to the arguments presented in the document. I hope you will show me the same respect by reading through this response. It is lengthy. That is unavoidable.
To start, it is important to realize that there are many teachings out there and the challenge is to know which teachings are solid and which are hollow. To do that, all Christians need to take heed of how the first century church dealt with these differing teachings. Acts 17:11-12 instructs us best in this area. We pick up the account as Paul and Silas are sent to Berea. They go to the synagogue of Jews and…”the people here were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, since they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of prominent Greek women as well as men.” We see that searching the Scriptures is how to find truth. The thing is, they had a few legs up on us. They read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. We do not. Therefore, it is important that we realize that our language can fall far short of the original language and, consequently, we need to spend more time searching for truth, but the end result is freedom. So let’s dive in and see if we find substance to these arguments against women as preachers, elders, and deacons.
The Scripture in this document is 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Key words pointed out are “silence”, “submission”, and “authority”. Do they have the same meanings in English as they do in Greek? Let’s see.
Silence, in this Scripture, is the word hesychia in Greek. Hesychia does not mean to “not talk”. It means, “the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others; quietness.” It is safe to say it means, “don’t be a busy body. Stay out of others business.” Hesychia is only used 4 times in the Scriptures.
In Acts 22:2 this word is used concerning a crowd. A mixture of males and females. To understand how this relates to being a busy body, we have to back up to Acts 21:27; the beginning of the commotion. This wild crowd of people who are seeking Paul’s death were stirred up because some Jews from Asia became busy bodies for the purpose of destroying Paul. The crowd slowly becomes quiet in Acts 22 in order to hear what Paul says (he was speaking Aramaic and it surprised them).
Hesychia is, also, used in 2 Thessalonians 3:12. Beginning in verse 10, “In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you; ‘if anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.’ For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy, but busy bodies. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves.” Hesychia is used for the word “quietly”. Again, attached to busy bodies who need to be busy with their own stuff.
The last two places this word is used is in the places this document points out; 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
In light of the true meaning of the word silence, it seems to indicate that the point of saying “a woman learn in silence” is learn and quit being a busy body; mind your own business. I think we can agree that if either gender leans toward being a busy body it is women. On a side note, it is curious that in verses 9-10, women is used (plural) then it switches to woman (singular) in 11-12. Could it be there was one woman that was the busy body and stirring up problems? Could it be Timothy had written to Paul about her for advise and Paul was answering that question? Scholars seem to think that could be the case. But I digress. Let us continue…
The next word that is a highlighted in this document is submission. As expected, this word (hypotage) means, “the act of subjecting, obedience, subjection.” What is not expected is the other places this word is used and those places help us have a better understanding of the word that is foreign to us. Only 4 places. None of them are about wives submitting to their husband. (Want a real eye opener? Check out what the word “submit” means in Ephesians 5:22…fascinating and more powerful than you can imagine! Again, I digress…)
The four places the word hypotage is used is 2 Corinthians 9:13 (praising them for their obedience to Christ), Galatians 2:5 (Paul, Barnabas, and Titus did NOT submit to those who were insisting on circumcision being a part of Christianity), 1 Timothy 2:11 (where we are at now), and 1 Timothy 3:4, (giving male overseers instruction on how to manage their children). All of these show us that hypotage is meant to show obedience to Christ’s teachings and not to the worlds standards.
To summarize all of this, the true meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11 comes to light. “Let a woman learn (be in the habit of) in silence (mind our own business) with all submission (obedience to Christ’s teachings and not the world).
After looking closely at 1 Timothy 2:11, we can see that the explanation in the document you gave me is hollow. It does not thoroughly examine the Scriptures to see if what we are being told is true, therefore, it is in fact a false teaching and should not be used. Onward to 1 Timothy 2:12.
Now the author of the document you gave me seems to be stuck on the words “to teach and have authority over a man”. Let’s see what the word for “authority” (authenteo) means. Interestingly enough, this is the only place this word is used in the Scriptures. An earlier usage of this word means “one who with his own hand kills either others or himself” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Later on it meant “to dominate”. Many scholars believe that the translation for this word should be dominate and that makes a lot more sense in the context of the Scriptures. Again, a woman, should not be dominating a man and I hope we can agree that no one professing Christ should dominate anyone. When anyone dominates another person, it is for the matter of control in an evil way.
To be clear, the word used (102 times to be exact) for authority as in, power to rule, is exousia. It is not the word used in this verse, therefore the author, by using the definition of exousia when the word authenteo, is presenting a false teaching.
The author of the document you gave me goes on to use 1 Timothy 2:13-14 to support his false stance. (Sounds a lot like Genesis 3:1 and the serpent trying to convince Eve she heard wrong!). Yes, we can all agree Adam was first and Eve was deceived and fell into transgression. That goes without saying! Unfortunately, there are crazy teachings out there from other religions that would disagree. Those religions would claim the woman was created first and man came from her. It might very well be the teaching that “a woman” was trying to spread and why she was “dominating” a man! I, also, want to point out, yes Eve was deceived, but Adam rebelled. It is that rebellion that caused sin to enter the world. (See Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Therefore, whether male or female we must “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babbling, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” 2 TImothy 2:14-15. The author of the document you gave me has failed to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
It is clear, once again, that the document you gave me is misleading and a false teaching. Let us move on to the author’s next argument, 1 Corinthians 14:34-37.
My first comment has nothing to do with the author’s interpretation, but my own observation. I find it amusing that the Scripture used to support a false teaching and to stir up dissension follows an in-depth look at what God’s love should look like through us! Ha! Too funny…on ward!
So, here we have a Scripture that is clearly telling women to be silent in church and not to speak. The problem is, it follows a whole discourse of telling people (not just men, but women as well) to prophesy, teach, speak in tongues, and exercise the gifts God has given them as part of the body of Christ. So why now say women should be silent and not speak? This requires looking at the context of these Scripture, because the verses appear to contradict the previous verses.
1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14 are all about arrangement/process/system. The body is ordered (arranged to function at peak ability; 1 Corinthians 12). Love is a process (a choice to exercise and to change our habits/behaviors; 1 Corinthians 13). Tongues and prophesying have system (1 Corinthians 14). It is the system of tongues and prophesy I will focus on now.
Chapter 14 is all about explaining the benefits and placements of prophecy and tongues in a meeting. We are to desire prophecy and not forbid tongues, but do them in an order that brings glory to God. (See 1Corinthians 14:39-40). So, what is this about women being silent? They are allowed to prophesy (think of Anna and Deborah), so how can they prophesy or speak in tongues, but not allowed to speak? Expected to be silent? This obviously does not make any sense, so obviously, we must dig deep and find out what in the world the Word of God is talking about! (Honestly, one of my favorite things to do!)
The answer comes in two places. First is the rendering of 1 Corinthians 14:34. The word for speak, laleo, means exactly that, “to utter a voice or emit a sound”. The Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB) has the best translation for what the Greek is saying in the context of 1 Corinthians 14. The OJB uses the phrase “not permitted to blurt out”. There is an order that needs to be respected and followed.
To further support this point we need to look at the words, “they are to be submissive”. The word for submissive here is hypotasso. It means obey, be subject. Further study shows it is a “Greek military term meaning ‘to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader’. In non-military use, it was ‘a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden’”. (Blue Letter Bible, interlinear) It is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 14:32, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”
In all of this, we see that it is not about a woman speaking in church. It is about a woman exercising control, following the plan of action, speaking at the right times and not blurting out in a gathering
That does not mean she cannot speak in church, it means she has to follow the system that is in place and not disrupt the proceedings. She is to cooperate, assume responsibility, and carry burdens…just like everyone else.
I will not address the author’s insistence if we ignore his teachings we are taking away authority of the Apostle Paul, because his teaching on this matter is false. Therefore, it is not a teaching that should be followed.
Women as Elders and Deacons?
Moving on to his next point of women being elders and deacons. Allow me to, again, dig into this teaching to see if it is hollow and false or if it has any substance.
We are back in 1 Timothy; specifically 3:1-12.
First let us look at the word for elder/overseer. This word, episkopos, simply means overseer. A superintendent, elder, overseer of a Christian church. There is no gender attached to this word. It is used in 5 places in the Bible.
In Acts 20:28 and Philippians 1:1, episkopos does not refer to a specific gender. It is merely a group of people.
In 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7, episkopos is used to refer to men and what is expected of them.
1 Peter 2:25 it refers to Christ, our Shepherd and Overseer.
To use the logic that it must be only for men, because 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7 refer to men would mean we would have to say that there can be no human overseers, since 1 Peter 2:25 refers to Christ. This line of thinking is illogical.
To say we cannot have women elders, pastors, overseers because there is no guidance for their character is also in error, since there is plenty of verses that talks about how a woman should behave. Proverbs 31:8-31 for example. The directions given in 1 Timothy and Titus make sense for a man, since those are the areas men (today and then) struggle with.
The word for deacon, diakonos, is also not gender specific. In fact, if it were true that this word only referred to men, then in Matthew 20:26 when Jesus says “It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your diakonos” (italics and diakonos added to show where this word is used), then he was only talking to men. We know, though, that he was talking to all of us.
Again, this teaching of women not being elders or deacons is false and should not be followed. It has no substance once it is examined carefully.”