I’ve been sitting on the sidelines recently. My leadership skills are unused. I’ve back-burnered my spiritual moxie. It’s simmering while I ponder it all. What are the biblical guidelines for women in ministry?
I recently moved from a somewhat progressive church in South Florida to a conservative church in North Carolina—from a church where I served for years as deacon and several other leadership roles to a church where woman may only lead other women or young children. Over the past months as I have struggled to come to terms with how God wants to use women in ministry and, particularly, how he wants to use me. I am going through a time of change and reflection. I have given it prayer and searched scripture for leading.
At precisely the time I was pondering and praying, an invitation to preview a new book arrived in my email. I was immediately intrigued by the title—Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead, by J. Lee Grady.
Despite his gender-neutral pen name, J. Lee Grady is not only a man and an ordained minister, but also the father of four daughters. I really liked that this message came through him.
In his book, Grady discussed the controversial Bible verses I was struggling with:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. I Timothy 2:12
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 1 Corinthians 14:34
Some churches interpret this verse to mean that women may not serve in leadership positions, but more likely Paul wrote them to address specific problems in struggling churches. Grady makes the point that the “assume authority” quoted in 1 Timothy 2:12 could be more accurately translated as “usurp authority.” The Greek verb authentein has violent connotations and Paul was commanding the women involved to submit in silence to proper doctrine.
Grady’s view on how these instructions should be interpreted for the churches of today? “We must stop viewing the role of women through the narrow filter of Paul’s words to Timothy or to the Corinthians. Women speak for God freely throughout the Old and New Testaments; why would we restrict all women based in these injunctions to heretical or immature churchgoers? We cannot use these verses as a blanket rule for all churches in all times.”
Fearless Daughters of the Bible will inspire any woman who is either actively involved in ministry or seeking more empowerment in Christian service. Grady illustrates his position through the lives of women God used in powerful ways with points firmly founded in the Bible. When it comes to serving God, we should all be fearless about using the gifts he gave us. I highly recommend this thought-provoking book.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28
Should woman be in ministry and leadership roles? Are we coming from a place of fear or operating on God’s power?