Women’s Series Part 1: Women’s Roles in Religion

Gender has always been somewhat of a controversial subject when it comes to holding positions of authority or leadership. While there are positions of authority that I feel are personally […]
May 2, 2014

Gender has always been somewhat of a controversial subject when it comes to holding positions of authority or leadership. While there are positions of authority that I feel are personally held best by females, there are some that are best held by males, or even commanded that certain positions are held by males. One of the most sticky current subjects is females, women, holding positions of authority and leadership in the Church.

Let’s define “Church” …for the sake of this article, “Church” is referring to the Christian Church, and will probably be most influenced by my own personal experience in the Church, in the Lutheran Church. Growing up in the Lutheran Church, women did not hold positions of authority or leadership when it came to worship.  The Pastor was always male.  The ushers were always male. The acolytes were young males.  Needless to say, anyone that had anything to do within the worship service was male.  This is what God commanded in the Bible, therefore in my personal opinion, this is how we are to lead our worship services.

Dr. A.L. Berry, President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod wrote in his article “What About…The Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Office” a very profound little paragraph that I’d like to share.  This paragraph sets the tone for purpose of this article.  Dr. Berry wrote,

“The issue of the ordination of women is not a matter of “Human rights” or “Church traditions” or various human opinions and customs. Nor is it a matter of “Discrimination against women.”

Dr. Berry also goes on to say,

“We believe that God has gifted men and women with different responsibilities and duties.  For example, men are gifted by God to be husbands and fathers; women are gifted by God to be wives and mothers. SO also in the Church, God has gifted men and women with different, though complementary, opportunities and responsibilities for service.”

God has given both males and females different roles, that we should both look forward to serving in. These roles are gifts, and we are commanded to not covet our neighbors things,  we are to be satisfied with what God has given to us. Let’s look at a very well known passage from the Bible that mentions women’s roles in the Church.  In Ephesians 5:22-24, Jesus tells women, specifically wives to submit themselves,

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Even for me, that was hard to swallow…I had to submit to my husband, IN EVERYTHING!? This is the vows that I took though. To further explain and support my previous statement, let’s look further into Ephesians 5, at verses 25-33:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the Church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the Church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Husbands (Christ) love your wives (the Church). Love your wives and give yourselves up for her to make her holy and blameless. Reading through this entire passage in Ephesians, wives are to submit to their husbands, obeying them in everything. God uses a marriage as a basis for how we are to worship Him. The man of the marriage is to lead and be the head of his wife. Therefore the man, males are to lead in worship. In every aspect of worship.  Not only leading the congregation with the sermon and order of worship, but also to helping to serve and administer the sacraments.

Another aspect is voting within the Church. Personally I was taught that when it comes to voting in the Church, each family had one vote. With families that had more than one confirmed male member, each male that was confirmed had the right to one vote. It was the role of the head of the family, the male, usually the husband or the father, to physically place the vote in the Church.  But was the vote purely the feelings of the husband? No. It was the practice that the head of the house would be representing the family and the decision that the family felt were most appropriate would be the way the head male of the house would place the vote.

So needless to say, for me, I believe as far as worship goes, women are invited and encouraged to attend, but as far as leading, women are told to be submissive. It is also the head male to represent his family in the Church in regards to voting and serving the Church.

So, then what? Women are just supposed to sit back and let the guys do all the work?  No, there are roles for the women to be able to serve in the Church.  One of the biggest for those that are musically inclined is serving as a choir member, which I proudly and eagerly do! There are also many other supporting roles that help with the life of the Church, such as preparing materials to be used during the worship services, helping in the nursery with the young children, along with leading the children’s worship programs and adult worship programs. There are so many administrative jobs that go behind having a successful worship service, and with personal experience I have found the females usually are able to to complete these tasks at a very successful rate.

In conclusion, maybe it’s just how I have grown up, and the traditions that I hold near and dear to my heart, but personally I feel like the roles of leadership within the Church and within worship are to be held by the men of the Church. These roles were gifted to men, and therefore should be carried out by men.  There are a numerous amount of supporting roles, administrative roles, and musical roles that can all be held by females, and in my opinion are better served when females do.  These are the roles that God has gifted to females. As I mentioned earlier the ninth and tenth commandments, God tells us not to covet our neighbors house, wife, manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. We should feel blessed by what we have been given, and also feel a sense of determination to complete what has been gifted to all us.

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