This is a follow-up to my last post which details the beginning of my journey in understanding the issue of women in the church. My task in this post is to draw out what I think the role of women in the church is (with their submission to husbands in mind).

The tentative conclusion that my Father and I have come to is that women are allowed to do pretty much anything in the church, with the exception of preaching from the pulpit (Well, I am still not settled here, I tend to think that a woman could preach in a church under certain circumstances… but that musing will need to be in a different post). The guidelines for this are that she needs to be in submission to the elders (like anyone else in the church) and to her husband.

This leaves the door wide open for many ministry opportunities. In my post on Theology and (Quiet) Women (forthcoming) I will delineate what I think is a defensible position of women in the church and why silence on the part of women is rarely required. For now, I will claim that there are numerous capacities in which women can serve. Teaching women, leading/teaching children and young adult ministries , leading worship, administrative tasks, deaconesses etc. There seems to be very little that a woman is not allowed to do, so long as she is submitted to the authority of her husband. Now, there are limits. Women are expressly prohibited from interpreting prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14. In the context, Paul is discussing the order of worship and the interpretation of tongues. It would be silly to understand the passage as “women are to be silent in all contexts in the church” rather, it is an imperative that in such a place of authority, men are to hold that place, not women. Whether this likewise applies to the interpretation of tongues… I am not sure. It seems to be that way, but I have not studied it out enough to decide one way or the other. (Again, see my post on quietness when it comes out later this week for further thoughts.)

Now, if this is the position of women in the Church, what is their place in life in general? Is the conservative bias that women should not be President biblical? Can women teach men in other contexts, like schools? Are there limits outside of the church?

My short answer to this last question is simply, “No.” The only biblical imperatives I see are in the context of the church. Now, under the umbrella of church I place the family. Thus, the imperatives to wives and children etc. fall under the category of church in my mind. Parents ought to be submitted to the authority of the Elders in their church, and thus, the Bible speaks to this issue. However, outside of the church context, nothing is said about what women can do, as long as they are submitting to their husbands and Christ and that they are not neglecting responsibilities, such as their children. Thus, I see no problem with a woman president, CEO, owner of a company, lawyer, judge, Governor, etc.

Now for the stickier question of women teaching theology in a non-church setting. The question of what the church is is one that we could go round about for hours. Does the gathering of believers in any place make it church? Some would argue that, but I think that this isn’t true. Certainly sporting games that a youth group might attend or the gathering of church members for a person’s birthday does not make it “church.” The believers are the Church of Christ insofar as they are members of his Body, but they are not in a church setting. Thus, women are free to be and do whatever they like, as long as they Love Jesus and follow his commands.

So, what about a place like my alma mater, Biola University? They teach theology, in fact, every student is required to take 30 Bible units during their sojourn at the school and can even minor in it if they take the right classes. They require Chapel attendance (which in many ways is like a church service). They provide systems of accountability for students. Often they also facilitate Bible Studies, though these are more often than not student initiatives. They also facilitate the sending out of missionaries. There seems to be little that is different on the surface. Ultimately, however, I agree with John Henry Newman, who said that the University assists the church in its task: it cannot replace, nor is it the church. Biola affirms this as well, they will never claim to be a church, even if they facilitate church-y things. Church attendance is required (ar at least highly recommended) in addition to their program because Biola is not a church, it is an educational institution. Therefore, there is no conflict with the church for a woman to be a professor there.

Now we get to the real meat of the issue: what about in the Bible Program? Should women be professors there? Better yet, I am currently following the trajectory towards being an academic in the field of Biblical and Theological Studies, which ideally ends in my being a professor. Ought I to pursue this career? Ultimately, Biola is equipping the young men and handful of women going through their program to be involved with the church. Many of the students who get Biblical and Theological studies degrees end up as Pastors, and others continue their studies as an academic. Regardless of their end place, they are still in an academic institution and not in a church, therefore, being instructed by women doesn’t seem to be a problem. I know that there are some who disagree with me, but for now, this is where I have landed. Many of my professors (including male, Bible professors) have encouraged me to follow this field because the voices of women are so desperately needed in the field of Theology. Men have so dominated the field that more often than not, when a book by a man comes out, men and women are instructed by it. When women write however, it is relegated to the status of a book “only for women.” I think this is sad. Women provide perspective in Theology that ought to be heard. Thus, my conscience is clear for pursuing this career. May I glorify him.

Grace and Peace.