During a conversation about church placement for my ministry internship last year, the intern director – a pastor herself – asked, “Are you comfortable with women leading in a church?” I stared blankly, confused. She offered, “Just wondering. Some people aren’t.”
When she asked that, I thought back to that one verse. You know, the “Women should remain silent in the churches” one (NIV 1 Corinthians 14:34). I realized when she asked me that question that some people really took the verse the way I thought no one took it. I realized it truly was a controversial topic: it was possible to believe that women should only have a certain role in church. That there should be women to teach the kids’ church and probably to teach other women, too, and there should be a woman’s voice on the worship team. But she could never preach.
I remember a long time ago when I asked one of the women from my church about “a verse in Corinthians” that I had just read. She immediately said, “Ah. I don’t always get along with Paul.” I didn’t yet know who Paul was or why she thought it was okay to disagree with the Bible, but I went ahead and told her which verse. I asked her why the Bible said women ought to be quiet in church. In all honesty, I don’t remember her exact answer, but I imagine it went something along the lines of what I believe today:
I'm not sure why that verse says women shouldn’t speak in church. But I know you can't deny the prophetesses of the Bible. The female martyrs of the Church. Every woman who has ever said anything for the glory of God and the love of her people. Christi. Charlotte. Ming. Jackie. Harriet.
Now, I have a slightly better – yet somehow significantly more confounded – understanding of this verse, of other verses about women, of the verses' textual and cultural contexts, of the theoretical role of women in the Church, of the practical role women have taken in our culture and much else. Life experience, hearing stories from others and visiting a host of different denominations have shown me that there's even more tension in the subject than I thought.
But to the women in my home church: Thank you.
I’m grateful that I didn’t understand the issues with women and the Church until I left you all.
Thank you for speaking boldly.
Thank you for loving well.
Thank you for preaching the gospel relentlessly, whether in word or character or action.
Thank you for leading the people around you, whether intentionally or not.
Thank you for showing more interest in the status of my spiritual life than the status of my love life (…most of the time).
Thank you for your devotion to your church community, your family, your careers, your God.
Thank you for encouraging me with hugs and prayer and laughter and questions.
Thank you for standing as a model in Christ for me as I continue out into the world and into the wider Church – a body that often doesn’t value women the way you are valued.