Although we may idealize the early church, most of us would not have enjoyed a visit to a worship service at Corinth. The impression which one was most likely to receive was that of chaos and delirious insanity.
The call for women missionaries is not often heard today. Often women are left with the feeling “we are only needed because the men fail to go.” Our American culture looks on pioneer missionary work as man’s work because the Church is infiltrated with a worldly and pagan view of women as inferior to men.
It is useless to deny that women can be victims. Increasingly, the secular press documents it. The Christian press has long acknowledged it in society at large and is now beginning to acknowledge it even within the sacred walls of the church of Jesus Christ. People are also beginning to acknowledge that sexual harassment and violence exist on the job, even in strongly Christian organizations.
I came to see the fullness of the Christian community and church, but was I surprised. I found instead disdain for my impending leadership as a female. I found lack of acceptance for my ministry and my leadership. I heard so many masculine pronouns used and masculine leaders speak that I wondered if there was a place for me at all.
This is not an article about the role of women in the church or in the workplace. It is about managerial responsibility to safeguard women on the job. Our laws today say that employers have that responsibility. They must ensure that women are not unfairly treated as sex objects, and that sexuality not interfere with normal work patterns and practices.
Perhaps some of you have heard or read of Luther’s theology on the Christian in the world and his idea of the dual kingdoms of church and state. I’ve come to believe that a Christian woman in academe is embedded in more than a duality of kingdoms, but a plurality.
The current teaching about a husband being his wife’s “covering” is so popular that some people are surprised to find that is actually is based on a shaky inference from I Corinthians 11:2-16, a passage which is talking about a woman literally covering her hair during Christian worship.
We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).
This article is an attempt to solve one specific problem: the proper translation of the word exousia in 1 Corinthians 11:10 (“For this reason the woman ought to have exousia over her head, because of the angels”). The translation of this word has been given much attention, because it is crucial for understanding the passage (11:2-16).
The purpose of this essay is a simple one. I hope you will come away with a new understanding of one paragraph in Paul’s letters that deals with women and men in the church. The paragraph is 1 Cor. 11:2-16, a passage I have been studying and writing about for over twenty years.