An unfortunate history of misinterpretation and abuse has surrounded 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. It has been taken out of context and used to suppress women’s involvement in the ministry of the church. The egalitarian interpretation, however, finally perceives this verse, not as a tool of oppression, but as one with a helpful cross-cultural message.
As a scholar of rhetoric and as a Pentecostal Christian, I notice that, although rhetoric and religion embody quite different theoretical perspectives, rhetoric, religion, and gender collide when we examine who is given the authority to speak and who is believed within the church.
The occasion for writing the following article is this: at a recent summer convention [probably 1893] a young lady missionary had been appointed to give an account of her work at one of the public sessions. The scruples of certain of the delegates against a woman’s addressing a mixed assembly were found to be so strong, however, that the lady was withdrawn from the programme, and further public participation in the conference confined to its male constituency.
As the numbers of converts grew, William and Catherine Booth organized that mission into an Army—a Salvation Army, taking advantage of the military imagery so common in nineteenth-century England with all the pageantry that such imagery afforded. The Army grew rapidly in Great Britain, and its ministers (officers) and laypersons (soldiers) became common sights on the streets of cities and towns.
Many evangelicals do not know how to read the very texts they claim establish their distinctive identity. Far from viewing the biblical texts too reverently typical evangelical approaches fail to respect the textenough.