Welcome to CBE’s Library

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Question: In 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul says women are not to usurp the authority of men in spiritual matters. Doesn’t CBE’s view of women in ministry twist what the Bible says?

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QUESTIONI have no problem with Galatians 3:28 or with equality concerning salvation and spiritual gifts. I do have a problem with headship. Can you please tell me where any of the writers of the New Testament gave women the OK to be in authority over men?

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To gain balance and perspective in understanding 1 Timothy 2:11-15, we lean back and consider how other writers from the first century used authentein. The answer is very helpful.

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Some of us come from traditions where you don’t ask questions of the text. If you ask questions, that means you are questioning God, and that’s not allowed. I want to expose you to the two typical ways this passage has been understood.

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To understand 1 Timothy 2, we need to overcome our blindness to women. We need to see Priscilla, a wise and strong leader and teacher; Artemis, the goddess whose female-centered religion would have normalized female religious dominance; the unqualified women usurping authority and spreading false teachings; and those being deceived by those teachings.

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Does 1 Timothy 3:8-13 discount the possibility of women deacons? Not at all.

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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of the delegates against a woman’s addressing a mixed assembly were found to be so strong, however, that the lady was withdrawn from the programme, and further public participation in the conference confined to its male constituency.

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In every corner of the world, religious teachings on gender and power have an enormous impact on human lives, especially those of girls and women. For this reason, Christians have a responsibility to accurately critique biblical teachings on gender. 

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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).

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